GOP senator certain that 'elements within Saudi government planned' Khashoggi killing

GOP senator certain that 'elements within Saudi government planned' Khashoggi killing

Sen. Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonThe Hill's 12:30 Report: O'Rourke jumps into 2020 fray Trump vows veto ahead of Senate vote on emergency declaration Senate to rebuke Trump on wall MORE (R-Wis.) said he believed that members of the Saudi government were responsible for the murder of Washington Post contributor and Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi, but declined to say definitively that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the killing. 

“I definitely want to see exactly how the CIA came to the assessment that the crown prince definitely directed this. But regardless, whether it was the crown prince, it was certainly elements within the Saudi government that planned this and executed just a horrific assassination of a journalist, and that’s something that should not be tolerated by civilized society,” Johnson, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said on Fox News on Wednesday.

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Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoPompeo open to future Senate run: 'The Lord will get me to the right place' Overnight Defense: Trump issues first veto over 'reckless' emergency resolution | Pompeo moves to restrict international court probing war crimes | Trump taps Air Force general for NATO commander The Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump condemns 'horrible' New Zealand mosque shootings MORE and Secretary of Defense James Mattis will brief the committee Wednesday on the killing, but CIA Director Gina Haspel will be notably absent. It was reported earlier this month that the intelligence agency determined that the crown prince directly ordered the killing. 

President TrumpDonald John TrumpJoint Chiefs chairman denies report that US is planning to keep 1K troops in Syria Kansas Department of Transportation calls Trump 'delusional communist' on Twitter Trump has privately voiced skepticism about driverless cars: report MORE last week disputed the report, inserting ambiguity into bin Salman's involvement in the slaying. 

“The CIA doesn’t say they did it. They do point out certain things. And pointing out those things, you can conclude that maybe he did or maybe he didn’t,” he said.

“They didn’t conclude. They did not come to a conclusion. They have feelings certain ways. … Nobody’s concluded," he added. "I don’t know if anyone’s going to be able to conclude that the crown prince did.”

Khashoggi was killed on Oct. 2 in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. Several Saudi officials were seen entering and leaving the consulate that day in quick succession, including one close to the crown prince.

The White House earlier this month announced sanctions against 17 Saudis for their alleged roles in the killing, including Saud al-Qahtani, a former top aide to the crown prince. However, some senators say the crown prince himself must be reprimanded.

Trump has refrained thus far from punishing Saudi Arabia too harshly, seeing the kingdom as a key player in his larger Middle East policies, particularly curbing Iran’s influence in the region.

“What I certainly know is Iran is the most malign force in the Middle East. Saudi Arabia certainly counters that malign force. They are a valued ally in what we need to do to try to stabilize the Middle East, so we have to maintain as good relations as we can with Saudi Arabia, but the killing of Khashoggi certainly does not make our capability of doing that any easier,” Johnson agreed.

Some senators have drafted a bill to end U.S. support for Saudi Arabia’s military campaign in Yemen, partially in response to the killing. However, Pompeo and Mattis have urged them to bury the legislation.

“Pulling back our limited U.S. military support, our weapons sales to our partners, and our protection of the Saudi and Emirati populations would be misguided on the eve of the promising initial negotiations,” Mattis said in prepared remarks.