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CIA director convinces senators of Saudi crown prince's role in Khashoggi murder

Sen. Lindsey Graham called it 'overwhelming' evidence

LUDOVIC MARIN/AFP/Getty Images

Senate leaders finally got their desired meeting with CIA Director Gina Haspel to see the evidence that led the intelligence organization to conclude that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was linked to the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, according to The Washington Post.

What they saw and heard convinced many of them that, without a doubt, Mohammed was connected to the murder.

"If the crown prince went in front of a jury, he would be convicted in 30 minutes," Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) said.

"We heard the clearest testimony I've ever heard from intelligence this morning," Corker said. "I've been here 12 years. I've never heard, ever, a presentation like was made today."

What did they learn? The senators who attended the briefing did not disclose what Haspel presented to them. But Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C) called the evidence "overwhelming" and said that someone would have to be "willfully blind" to come to any conclusion except that Mohammed was involved with Khashoggi's murder.

"It is a zero chance, zero, that this happened in such an organized fashion without the crown prince," Graham told The Washington Post.

The CIA's assessment is reportedly based on intercepted communications and a recording from within the Saudi consulate in Turkey where the murder occurred.

What will happen now? President Donald Trump has publicly disagreed with the CIA's findings and declined to punish Saudi Arabia beyond the sanctions against 17 men believed to have carried out the murder.

Now senators who believe even more strongly that Mohammed helped coordinate Khashoggi's killing will explore legislative options to punish Saudi Arabia, including bills or amendments that could withdraw U.S. support of Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen, impose additional sanctions, or end weapons sales to the country.

"Saudi Arabia's a strategic ally and the relationship is worth saving -- but not at all costs," Graham said. Graham will no longer support arms sales to Saudi Arabia as long as Mohammed is in power, The Washington Post reported.

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