MIAMI (CNN) — Sen. Marco Rubio said Wednesday there is “no doubt” that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was involved in “directing” the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
“Just from what we know about Saudi Arabia, what we know about the crown prince and what we know about this murder leaves you with no doubt that the crown prince, at a minimum, knew about it and condoned it, and perhaps at worst was actually involved in directing it,” Rubio told CNN’s John Berman on “New Day.”
Rubio, a Republican from Florida, made his comments a day after a small group of lawmakers were briefed by CIA Director Gina Haspel on the murder of Khashoggi, which happened in early October in the Saudi consulate in Turkey. After several weeks of changing explanations, the Saudi government finally admitted that his killing was premeditated and carried out by a team of government officials, many within the prince’s inner circle. The murder has become a lightning rod, dividing the White House and a usually supportive Republican-led Senate.
Rubio, who sits on the Senate Intelligence Committee, was not present at the briefing but said that he had existing knowledge of what was discussed during the briefing.
“I’m on the US Senate Intelligence Committee, so everything they knew, whatever they learned in that meeting, we’ve known,” he said.
“And here’s why we know that (bin Salman was involved in the murder),” Rubio told Berman. “He has absolute control in Saudi Arabia. He basically governs the country at this point as the crown prince. The 17 people who flew into Turkey have now been publicly reported who they are. Many have very close ties to him. There is no way, and I mean no way, that 17 people that close to the crown prince get on a charter airplane, fly into a third country, murder someone in a diplomatic facility and fly back to Saudi Arabia and he not at least know about it, much less perhaps be involved in it.”
“And I think you can conclude that without having been in that briefing or without sitting on the intelligence committee the way I do,” he said.
Rubio also said top Trump administration officials — including President Donald Trump, Defense Secretary James Mattis and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo — have been asserting that there’s little evidence that bin Salman knew about the murder in order to preserve diplomatic relations with the Saudis.
“Well I think they’re frankly carrying out the policy of the administration,” he said. “We don’t need smoking gun evidence, this is not a criminal trial. This is not an episode of ‘Matlock.'”
“As far as the White House and their position is concerned, it is my view that they are trying to preserve from a realistic perspective the importance of the Saudi-US alliance, which I agree with — it is a critical one. But all alliances have buffers, all alliances have limits. And the crown prince will continue to test the limits of this alliance until those limits are clearly set,” Rubio said.
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