GOP senators accuse Trump Administration of covering up killing

CIA Director Gina Haspel departs the Capitol Rotunda after visiting the flag-draped casket of former President George H.W. Bush as he lies in state in Washington

Graham also authored an op-ed published in the Wall Street Journal earlier in the day, which argued that bin Salman is a "wrecking ball to US-Saudi relations" whose behavior helps only Iran.

The accusations by Graham and other lawmakers were striking in that they followed an unusual briefing from CIA Director Gina Haspel, who had come to lay out the agency's assessment that Mohammed likely ordered the killing of Khashoggi, who was a Washington Post contributing columnist. Lindsey Graham was only more convinced of the crown prince's involvement.

Stewart was defending President Donald Trump's tepid response to Khashoggi's death. "I would imagine if they were in a Democratic administration, I would be all over them for being in the pocket of Saudi Arabia, but since I have such respect for them, I'm going to assume that they're being good soldiers".

Saudi authorities have vehemently denied the crown prince was involved.

Illinois Sen. Richard Durbin said the briefing with Haspel "clearly went in to an evaluation of the intelligence" and was much more informative than the session with Mattis and Pompeo.

The CIA has concluded Mohammed bin Salman "probably ordered" the killing of Khashoggi. Trump has, however, imposed sanctions on 17 Saudis for their alleged role in the murder.

The administration last week sent Mattis and Pompeo to the Capitol, but senators emerged angrier than before, in part because Haspel didn't participate. And today's briefing with Haspel seemed to reaffirm Graham's belief that MBS was behind Khashoggi's murder.

But the debate could become a virtual trial over Prince Mohammed's responsibility for Khashoggi's murder at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul and Trump's effort to downplay it. Senators could add amendments to further punish the kingdom.

"It could very well be that the crown prince had knowledge of this tragic event - maybe he did and maybe he didn't!"

"There's not a smoking gun, there's a smoking saw", Graham told reporters, apparently referring to the bone saw that the Khashoggi assassins brought along when they entrapped, killed, and dismembered him in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2. "I can not support arm sales to Saudi Arabia as long as he's in charge".

The CIA, meanwhile, is facing growing pressure to brief the full Senate, since Tuesday's briefing comprised only roughly a dozen senators from the party leadership and who sit on key committees.

Turkey will not hesitate to consult worldwide quarters if a deadlock is reached on the Khashoggi probe, the foreign minister said on Wednesday.

"Now, the question is, how do you separate the Saudi crown prince and his group from the nation itself", he said.

The first vote would be on a motion to proceed to the joint resolution that seeks to stop US support for the Saudi-led military intervention in Yemen.

"I would really question someone's judgment if they couldn't figure this out", Graham continued.

Two weeks ago Trump said, "I don't know".

Following online backlash to his comments, Stewart released an additional statement and said the murder of any journalist can not be brushed aside.

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