Saudi crown prince visits Algiers without meeting president

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Senator John Kennedy has likened Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to infamous suspected Mexican crime lord Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán ahead of a small briefing allegedly linking the royal to the murder of a prominent journalist.

"There's not a smoking gun", said Graham, who then referred to reports that the Saudi team included a forensic expert who arrived with equipment to dismember Khashoggi's body. Mattis said there was no "smoking gun" implicating the Saudi crown prince.

Corker called on US President Donald Trump to strongly condemn Saudi Arabia for the journalist's murder and make sure that those responsible are held accountable, Reuters reported.

Sen. Bob Corker says a jury would find the Saudi crown prince 'in about 30 minutes.'
Sen. Bob Corker says a jury would find the Saudi crown prince 'in about 30 minutes.'

CIA Director Gina Haspel will give a closed briefing to leaders of several US Senate committees on Tuesday on the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, according to two sources familiar with the planned meeting.

Senator Bob Corker, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, shook his head no, when asked if he thought Haspel's briefing had changed any minds. 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. Legislators have vowed to punish Saudi Arabia, proposing a measure which would remove US support for the Saudis in the civil war in Yemen. "I think he is complicit in the murder of Khashoggi in the highest possible level", said Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican.

After reports that the Central Intelligence Agency concluded that the crown prince ordered Khashoggi's assassination in the Istanbul consulate on Oct 2, Trump issued a statement saying US-Saudi relations and oil market stability were too important to rock over the scandal. Human rights groups say the war is wreaking havoc on the country and subjecting civilians to indiscriminate bombing.

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"We are a coequal branch of government exercising leadership to safeguard the country's long-term interests, values and reputation", wrote Graham, a frequent ally of the president, of the Senate.

Haspel's absence from that briefing angered senators.

"We know he ordered it". The Senate ultimately passed that measure by a very wide margin, and debate on the resolution itself is expected to begin soon.

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"I went into the briefing believing it was virtually impossible for an operation like this to be carried out without the Crown Prince's knowledge", Graham added.

When asked whether there was a difference in the message about Mohammed's culpability, Corker compared it to the "difference between darkness and sunshine".

The Yemen legislation could set up a bitter year-end Senate floor fight over USA war powers.

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