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US lawmakers want MBS’s role in Khashoggi case clarified

Muslim Times (News Desk) – Lawmakers on both sides of the US political spectrum continue to demand answers over Saudi Crown Prince bin Salman (MBS)’s role in the murder of dissident Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Turkey, even as President Donald Trump tries his best to protect the prince from criticism.

Top Republican Senator Bob Corker, one of the first lawmakers to speak up after Khashoggi went missing, said Sunday that MBS should be held into account if he indeed ordered the hit job.

“If he’s gone forth and murdered this journalist, he’s now crossed the line. And there has to be a punishment and a price paid for that,” Corker told CNN.

“I’m not rushing to judgment,” added the senator, who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee “Do I think he did it? Yes, I think he did it.”

Another senior Republican to address the issue on Sunday was Senator Rand Paul, who said he was certain MBS ordered and directed the murder and that Washington needed to punish Riyadh.

“I feel certain that the crown prince was involved and that he directed this,” Paul told Fox News.

Trump said last week that both MBS and his father, King Salman, had no knowledge of Khashoggi’s fate.

However, the kingdom gave into mounting international pressure on Friday and admitted that the journalist had been killed at the Saudi consulate in Turkey’s Istanbul after entering the mission on October 2 to sort out his marriage documents.

The admission forced Trump to change his narrative, saying he would consult with Congress for possible sanctions and other punitive measures. He also made it clear that he would not go as far as imperiling major arms deals with Riyadh.

Democratic Senator Dick Durbin also went on record on Sunday and told NBC News that the 33-year-old prince “has his fingerprints all over this.”

Durbin, the second-ranking Democrat in the Senate, even suggested the Trump administration should expel the Saudi ambassador from the US “tomorrow morning.”

Republican Senator Thom Tillis made a similar assessment.

“It looks like it based on the people who were involved in the actual act,” the North Carolina lawmaker said when asked if MBS had ordered the killing.

The senator indicated that he would be open to exploring the crown prince’s removal depending on the outcome of an independent investigation.

Turkish authorities reportedly have audio they say proves Khashoggi was killed and dismembered at the facility.

In an attempt to contain the damage, Riyadh said it had sacked several officials, including Ahmad al-Assiri, a top general in the General Intelligence Agency (GIA) and a close aide to bin Salman.

Furthermore, Saudi King Salman ordered the formation of a ministerial committee to restructure the GIA. Ironically enough, the committee would be headed by none other than bin Salman himself.

US lawmakers did not buy into the explanation, pointing to bin Salman’s history of cracking down on political opponents. In doing so, MBS has even detained other royals and prominent figures in Saudi Arabia to consolidate his grip on power as the de facto king of his country.

Senator Lindsey Graham, another top Republican, said last week that MBS has “got to go” before further tarnishing the Riyadh regime’s image.

Late Saturday, Trump said in an interview with The Washington Post that he still had confidence in the crown prince although the Saudis’ “stories are all over the place.”

“Nobody has told me he’s responsible,” Trump said. “Nobody has told me he’s not responsible. We haven’t reached that point … I would love if he wasn’t responsible.”

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