Retiring lame duck Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN), chairman of Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said in a tweet on Saturday that “Everything points to the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, MBs, ordering @washingtonpost journalist Jamal #Khashoggi’s killing.”
Everything points to the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, MbS, ordering @washingtonpost journalist Jamal #Khashoggi‘s killing. The Trump administration should make a credible determination of responsibility before MbS executes the men who apparently carried out his orders.
— Senator Bob Corker (@SenBobCorker) November 17, 2018
“The Trump administration should make a credible determination of responsibility before MbS executes the men who apparently carried out his orders,” Corker continued.
The murder of Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi Arabian Embassy in Istanbul, Turkey last month has created a difficult foreign policy problem for the Trump administration, which has relied upon strengthened relationships with Saudi Arabia to hold the threat posed by Iran to stability in the Middle East in check.
Corker’s tweet on Saturday expressed a view similar to the one taken by the Washington Post editorial board, which opined on Saturday that “Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, is brazenly seeking to lie his way out of accountability for the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi — and the Trump administration is helping him do so.” the Washington Post editorial board opined on Saturday:
On Thursday, a state prosecutor in Riyadh advanced an account of the killing blatantly at odds with established facts, excusing the crown prince from all blame. Rather than reject this contemptible coverup, President Trump, who had pledged to “get to the bottom” of the case, went along with it. The Treasury Department imposed sanctions on 17 mostly low-level suspects already implicated by the Saudis, while excusing both Mohammed bin Salman and top intelligence officials.
Now we learn that Mr. Trump backed the Saudi leader despite a conclusion by the CIA that the prince was, in fact, responsible for ordering Khashoggi’s assassination. The Post reports that intelligence officials have “high confidence” in their assessment and have briefed the president on their evidence, which includes an audio recording of the killing and phone calls by the leader of the kill team as well as the Saudi ambassador in Washington. Mr. Trump nevertheless has refused to accept Mohammed bin Salman’s responsibility, perhaps because that would mean acknowledging that the White House’s outsize bet on the 33-year-old prince as a strategic ally was badly mistaken.
In an exclusive interview with Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday President Trump said “that the crown prince, known informally as “MbS,” had told him “maybe five times” that he had no involvement in Khashoggi’s death.”
When Wallace asked what Trump would do if he determines that the crown prince has lied to him, Trump said: “Will anybody really know?”
He did have, certainly, people that were reasonably close to him and close to him that were probably involved,” the president added. “You saw we put on very heavy sanctions, massive sanctions on a large group of people from Saudi Arabia. But at the same time, we do have an ally and I want to stick with an ally that in many ways has been very good.”
This past week, the administration penalized 17 Saudi officials for their alleged role in the killing. However, lawmakers have called on the administration to curtail arms sales to Saudi Arabia or take other harsher punitive measures.
Intelligence officials have been providing information to Trump for weeks about the death, and he was briefed again by phone Saturday by CIA Director Gina Haspel and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo as he flew to California to survey damage from wildfires in that state. White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders provided no details of his call but said the president has confidence in the CIA.
Corker has been a frequent critic of President Trump, and has not ruled out challenging him in the 2020 Republican presidential primaries.