Graham Breaks With Trump: ‘Zero Chance’ MBS Wasn’t Involved In Khashoggi Murder

Lindsey Graham after briefing on Khashoggi murder on Dec. 4, 2018.
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Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) issued a forceful condemnation of the Saudi crown prince and the kingdom on Tuesday, breaking with President Trump and suggesting he would question the judgment of anyone who believed Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was not involved in Washington Post writer Jamal Khashoggi’s murder.

He went on to suggest that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary James Mattis were being “technical”  “good soldiers” for the goals of the Trump administration. He said he would “question somebody’s judgment if they couldn’t figure this out.”

“It is zero chance, zero, that this happened in such an organized fashion without the crown prince,” he told reporters Tuesday. “As to Pompeo and Mattis, I have great respect for them. I would imagine if they were in a Democratic administration, I would be all over them for being in the pocket of Saudi Arabia, but since I have such respect for them, I’m going to assume that they’re being good soldiers.”

He then offered a veiled criticism of Trump.

“I think the reason they don’t draw the conclusion that he’s complicit, is because the administration doesn’t want to go down that road, not because there’s not evidence to suggest he’s complicit,” he said.

Graham made the unambiguous rebuke following a classified briefing on the murder with CIA Director Gina Haspel, who is one of the only U.S. officials who listened to the audio recording of Khashoggi’s death. Graham added that his opinion on Saudi Arabia had changed and that he would no longer support the war in Yemen or arms sales between the U.S. and the kingdom until the issue was addressed.

Bin Salman has denied any knowledge of the plot to torture, murder and dismember Khashoggi at the Saudi Consulate in Turkey in October and the U.S. has waffled on whether it believes his denials. The Trump administration has issued sanctions against the individuals who carried out the crime, but Trump himself issued a strong, yet befuddling, statement of support for the kingdom, citing economic benefits for the U.S. In that statement, Trump vacillated on bin Salman’s involvement: “maybe he did, maybe he didn’t” know about the murder scheme.

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