Sen. Lindsey Graham and other Republicans broke with President Trump on Tuesday, calling Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman a “wrecking ball” and accusing him of being behind the disappearance and suspected killing of writer Jamal Khashoggi.
“This guy has got to go. Saudi Arabia, if you’re listening, there are a lot of good people you can choose, but MBS has tainted your country and tainted himself,” Graham said during an appearance on Fox News.
He went on to say he believes the prince had Khashoggi “murdered.”
“I can never do business with Saudi Arabia again until we get this behind us,” Graham added. “That means I’m not going back to Saudi Arabia as long as this guy is in charge.”
The South Carolina Republican’s condemnation of the Saudi leader came hours after Secretary of State Pompeo met with the prince, and his father, King Salman, to discuss the mysterious disappearance of Khashoggi.
A Washington Post columnist and outspoken critic of the royal family, Khashoggi entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2 and was never seen again.
Trump later tweeted that he spoke with the crown prince and said he “denied any knowledge of what took place in their Turkish Consulate.”
Police who searched the consulate found evidence Khashoggi was killed there, a high-level Turkish official said Tuesday. Authorities were preparing to search the consul’s residence nearby after the diplomat left the country.
An official close to the investigation confirmed to CNN that investigators believe Khashoggi’s body was cut into pieces after he was killed inside the Saudi government office.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said investigators were looking into “toxic” and “painted over material” inside the building as part of their inquiry.
“My hope is that we can reach conclusions that will give us a reasonable opinion as soon as possible, because the investigation is looking into many things such as toxic materials and those materials being removed by painting them over,” Erdogan said.
Saudi officials have called the allegations “baseless,” but several reports suggest they may soon acknowledge Khashoggi’s death.
State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said Pompeo “thanked the King for his commitment to supporting a thorough, transparent, and timely investigation.”
“We are strong and old allies. We face our challenges together — the past, the day of, tomorrow,” Prince Mohammed said during the meeting.
Pompeo smiled and shook hands during the Riyadh sitdown, but did not address reporters.
Trump, who has fiercely defended the Saudis and speculated that “rogue killers” could be to blame for the journalist’s death, dispatched Pompeo amid rising international tensions — and to ensure an arms deal isn’t jeopardized.
Washington Post publisher Fred Ryan said Tuesday that Saudi Arabia “owes the Khashoggi family and the world a full and honest explanation of everything that happened to him.”
The United Nations also urged both Saudi Arabia and Turkey to “reveal everything they know about the disappearance and possible extrajudicial killing” of Khashoggi.
Prince Mohammed became Saudi Arabia’s de facto leader in 2015 after out maneuvering his rivals.
The 33-year-old, who maintains a close relationship with the Trump administration, has been questioned by the international community for his human rights record and the ongoing war in Yemen.
MBS, as he is known, has cracked down on human rights activists and advocates of women’s rights as well as political rivals.
Last year, Saudi security forces arrested several hundred people in an alleged attempt to combat corruption and jailed them at a Ritz-Carlton hotel in Riyadh.
“I’ve been their biggest defender on the floor of the United States,” Graham said on Tuesday. “This guy is a wrecking ball. He had this guy murdered in a consulate in Turkey and to expect me to ignore it, I feel used and abused.
“He can never be a leader on the world stage,” he added.
Other Republicans also spoke out against the Saudi royal family, distancing themselves from the President.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) told CNN that he would be willing to scrap an arms deal between the U.S. and the Middle East country if Saudi officials don’t make moves to amend their human rights record.
“I don’t care how much money it is,” Rubio said. “There isn’t enough money in the world to purchase back our credibility on human rights and the way nations should conduct themselves”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell offered a more metered response.
“I think it’s good that the President sent the Secretary of State to talk to the king,” he told Bloomberg News. “We need to find out what happened before deciding what kind of response is appropriate.”
Meanwhile, the Treasury Department imposed new sanctions on Iran, targeting businesses providing financial backing to paramilitary forces which allegedly train child soldiers.
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