AUGUSTA, Maine — Sen. Angus King of Maine said he and another senator pushed Saudi Arabia’s crown prince on the killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi during a congressional trip to the Middle East this weekend.
King, an independent who caucuses with Democrats and sits on the Senate Intelligence Committee, told CNN on Tuesday he and Sen. Todd Young, R-Indiana, told Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman that Khashoggi’s death is still a “big obstacle” in the U.S.-Saudi relationship.
President Donald Trump has said he is angry about Khashoggi’s death but has said no one has “directly pointed a finger” at bin Salman. The prince has denied his involvement, though a United Nations investigation recently determined there is “credible evidence” that the crown prince and other Saudi officials were responsible for Khashoggi’s death at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul last fall. The report’s findings were similar to those the CIA made late last year.
King has been outspoken on bin Salman and of the Trump administration’s reaction in the past. Last year, he told CBS it was “clear” the prince was involved in the murder, saying “you don’t have to be the CIA to put things together and say how could this happen without the prince being involved.”
This week, King told CNN that bin Salman was “ready to talk about” the killing and the senators were “very, very direct” with the crown prince, but seemed unsure about what the result would be and didn’t divulge details of the conversation.
Khashoggi, who was critical of bin Salman, was living in self-imposed exile from the kingdom when he was killed. A team of Saudis flew to Istanbul on government aircraft in early October and killed him inside the Saudi consulate, where he had come to pick up documents that he needed for his planned marriage to a Turkish woman, according to the CIA’s report.
Bills in both the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate to retaliate against Saudi Arabia by blocking arms sales or ending support for the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen have been vetoed by Trump. More legislation calling for punishments was introduced this summer.