After a classified briefing between lawmakers and the CIA on the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, senators united in a rare bipartisan agreement that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was directly involved in the killing. Still, that didn’t stop Rep. Chris Stewart (R-Utah) from defending President Donald Trump’s apparent unwillingness to hold Mohammed responsible.
“We have to have to have a relationship with some players that we don’t agree with,” Stewart told CNN’s Brianna Keilar on Tuesday after the briefing. “Journalists disappear all over the country. Twenty journalists have been killed in Mexico. You don’t think it happens in Turkey and China? Of course it does. And yet we have to have a relationship with these individuals or with these countries.”
He serves on the House Intelligence Committee.
As The Daily Beast points out, Stewart’s comments are similar to ones Trump made last month when speaking to reporters.
“I’m not going to destroy the world economy and I’m not going to destroy the economy for our country by being foolish with Saudi Arabia,” Trump said at the time.
There remained no question among most senators on Tuesday after the closed-door briefing with CIA Director Gina Haspel that Mohammed was directly connected to the killing. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said the crown prince was “complicit in the murder” of Khashoggi.
“It’s not a smoking gun. It’s a smoking saw,” Graham told reporters, referring to the bone saw allegedly used by Saudi authorities to dismember the journalist.
Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) echoed that conclusion.
“Let me just put it this way: I think if he was in front of a jury, he would have a unanimous verdict in about 30 minutes. Guilty. A guilty verdict,” Corker, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told reporters after the briefing. “He murdered him. No question in my mind. I had almost no question before. I have no question whatsoever now: The crown prince directed the murder and was kept apprised of the situation all the way through.”
During a Capitol Hill briefing on U.S.-Saudi relations on last week, Democratic Whip Dick Durbin (Ill.) said, the White House prevented Haspel from attending. She has heard audio of Khashoggi’s killing by Saudi agents. Trump, who continues to downplay the atrocity, declined to listen to it.