Senators vowed yesterday to punish Saudi Arabia with further sanctions after a private briefing from the Central Intelligence Agency director convinced them that the country's crown prince had ordered the murder of Jamal Khashoggi. In contrast to statements from President Donald Trump-who has said "we may never know" if the crown prince was culpable-several senators came out of the briefing saying they were more convinced than ever.
The CIA concluded that the Saudi crown prince likely ordered the killing, basing their assessment on intercepted communications, according to the Washington Post. Turkey says a hit squad from Riyadh killed and dismembered him.
"There's not a smoking gun, there's a smoking saw", Sen. Frustrated with the administration's response, senators voted last week to move forward on a resolution curtailing US backing for the Saudi-led war in Yemen.
Corker also suggested that the briefing last week, which featured Pompeo and Mattis but not Haspel, was entirely misleading.
Graham said that you'd have to be "willfully blind" to not know Mohammed was responsible - a clear rebuke of Trump's argument that this whole thing resides in some kind of grey area.
"I think it would have been good to have the full Senate", said Sen.
Ms Haspel's absence from that briefing angered senators.
When asked if he thought Haspel's briefing had changed any minds, Sen.
"To let it stand, in essence allows somebody like MBS to continue with immunity which is inappropriate", Corker said, adding that the Trump administration "puts Congress in a place where now we feel like we need to speak out, that this can not stand".
Last week, Haspel did not attend a briefing about Khashoggi's killing that was given to all senators by Defense Secretary James Mattis and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
The Senate is gearing up for a potentially unwieldy debate over USA policy regarding Yemen and Saudi Arabia, and a Tuesday briefing for key senators from the Central Intelligence Agency chief did nothing to thwart that.
The South Carolina senator continued, "Saudi Arabia is a strategic ally, and the relationship is worth saving-but not at all cost".
Other senators, including Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and Richard Shelby (R-AL) said the briefing confirmed their suspicions about bin Salman's involvement and agreed the United States must respond. And for once, Graham and Democrats in Congress have found something they can agree on.
Khashoggi's murder is a rare example of Senate Republicans-at least some of them-parting company with the Trump Administration on foreign policy.
Senator Corker said it would be "difficult" to come up with legislation that could pass the Senate.
"Now, the question is, how do you separate the Saudi crown prince and his group from the nation itself", he said.
The Trump administration has argued there is no "smoking gun" tying the prince to the murder, but Corker said Haspel presented the senators with information they hadn't heard before. Speaker Paul Ryan last week said the Yemen resolution "isn't the way to go".