Rubio on Kahsoggi's killing: 'We don't need direct evidence'

'No way' crown prince wasn't aware of murder

By CNN'S VERONICA STRACQUALURSI CONTRIBUTED TO THIS REPORT.
Scott Olson/Getty

(CNN) - Sen. Marco Rubio pushed back against Trump administration claims that there's no direct link between the Saudi crown prince and the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, saying that "there is no way" Mohammed bin Salman wasn't aware of the killing and that he very likely ordered it.

"We don't need direct evidence that he ordered the code red on this thing," Rubio, R-Florida, said Sunday on CNN's "State of the Union." "The bottom line is that there is no way that 17 people close to him got a charter plane, flew to a third country, went into a consulate, killed and chopped up a man, and flew back, and he didn't know about it, much less order it."

Despite the CIA's assessment in November that the crown prince had personally ordered the journalist's killing, President Donald Trump and the State Department have maintained that they can't punish the Saudi prince because the US government has not reached a final conclusion about who is responsible for Khashoggi's death.

Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also argue that foreign policy interests mean the US shouldn't take further action after sanctioning men involved in the murder, many of whom were from the prince's inner circle.

Bipartisan action

Rubio's comments follow the introduction of a bipartisan Senate resolution that condemned bin Salman for a series of actions, including the crisis in Yemen, the blockade in Qatar, the jailing of dissidents and the killing of Khashoggi.

The resolution was introduced Wednesday by Rubio, Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Todd Young of Indiana, and Democratic Sens. Dianne Feinstein of California, Ed Markey of Massachusetts and Chris Coons of Delaware.

On Saturday, The New York Times reported that the President's son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, continued to have private conversations with bin Salman following Khashoggi's murder in October. Kushner offered the crown prince advice "about how to weather the storm" following the murder, The New York Times reported, citing a Saudi source familiar with the conversations.

CNN reported in October that Kushner operated behind the scenes to mitigate the fallout from Khashoggi's death and left public explanations to others, intentionally remaining in the background that week.

"We don't know -- it's a stretch of credibility to believe in a country like that -- this is not a decentralized country. That in a country like that, a man with his power, his influence and his control did not know it and did not order, that's just not believable," Rubio said on Sunday.

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