CIA Director Gina Haspel briefed key lawmakers in the House of Representatives on Wednesday on her agency’s findings in its investigation into the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi.
Shortly after the closed-door session, Rep. Eliot Engel, who is set to assume the top spot on the House Foreign Relations Committee next year, told reporters the committee will hold hearings on Khashoggi’s killing after he takes the reins.
“We need to have an assessment of our relationship with Saudi Arabia,” he said.
When asked specifically if Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was directly behind the murder, Engel said “it’s not looking too good right now, but we’ll see”.
“And certainly our relationship with Saudi Arabia, it’s an important relationship. I don’t want to downgrade it,” he said. “But I don’t think we can simply look the other way when things happen and talk about business as usual.”
Saudi Arabia initially denied any role in Khashoggi’s disappearance when he went missing after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey on Oct. 2.
After producing various contradictory explanations, Riyadh acknowledged he was killed inside the diplomatic building, blaming the act on a botched rendition operation.
That explanation has come under widespread scrutiny, including from a bipartisan group of lawmakers on Capitol Hill who dispute the notion Khashoggi could have been killed without bin Salman’s consent.
U.S. President Donald Trump and his top officials continue to deny any direct role for Saudi Arabia’s de facto leader in Khashoggi’s murder, however.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said earlier Wednesday that U.S. intelligence has not found a “direct” link between bin Salman and Khashoggi’s killing.
“The direct evidence isn’t yet available,” Pompeo said during an interview with Fox News. “It may show up tomorrow; it may have shown up overnight and I haven’t seen it.”
But following Haspel’s briefing of Senate leaders last week, several lawmakers left that closed-door session disputing the denial.
“You have to be willfully blind not to come to the conclusion that this was orchestrated and organized by people under the command of MBS and that he was intricately involved in the demise of Mr. Khashoggi,” Senator Lindsey Graham said, referring to bin Salman, who is commonly known by his initials.