The head of the CIA Gina Haspel organized a private briefing among us senators, where he presented evidence of the involvement of the crown Prince of Saudi Arabia Mohammed bin Salman to the murder of opposition journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
Saudi Arabia has detained 21 people and says it is seeking the death penalty for five. But they remain sharply divided over how to do so. They did so against the advice of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, who said USA involvement in the Yemen conflict is central to the Trump administration's broader goal of containing Iranian influence in the Middle East.
But Trump and some of his fellow Republicans have argued that Washington should not take action that would risk its relationship with Riyadh, which is viewed as an important counterweight to Iran in the Middle East.
Alabama Sen. Richard Shelby, the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said after the briefing that somebody should be punished.
While acknowledging the country's long relationship with Saudi Arabia, senators have said the murder can't be excused.
He was one of 37 Republicans who voted against advancing a nonbinding resolution last week to end US support for the Saudi-led military campaign in Yemen. President Trump of the US described the killing as brutal and vicious.
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Graham, who was one of the sponsors of Wednesday's U.S. Senate resolution and has become one of the president's most vocal allies, said there may not be a "smoking gun", but that there was a "smoking saw", a reference to a bone saw that investigators said was used to cut up Khashoggi's body. Militarily, Saudi Arabia is a staunch ally and a buffer against Iranian military expansion. The latter is a hushed, but vicious issue making its way through congress. Thanks to some post-9/11 politics, the president can start a war whenever he wants without anyone's approval (despite the constitution stating that congress has war powers), but Graham and 12 other Republicans are actually advancing a bill that threatens that legislation for the first time ever. Asked if he would be convicted of murder, Corker replied "Yes".
"I have zero question in my mind that the crown prince directed the murder and was kept appraised of the situation all the way through it", Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker told reporters after Central Intelligence Agency director Gina Haspel briefed a small group of senators.
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"I am now more convinced than I was before - and I was pretty convinced - that in fact the United States must have a strong response to both the war in Yemen as well as the killing" of Khashoggi, Senate Democrat Bob Menendez said.
Khashoggi, a US resident who was a columnist for the Washington Post, was killed inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October. He said finding a compromise will be hard because some lawmakers don't want to tie Yemen to the Khashoggi killing.