U.S. Sen. Angus King of Maine said it was “pretty clear” to him that the Saudis who murdered Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi last month were acting on the Saudi crown prince’s orders, despite President Trump’s statement that a CIA report lacks evidence to blame the prince.

“Now you don’t have to be the CIA to put things together and say how could this have happened without the prince being involved,” King said on the CBS News program “Face the Nation” on Sunday.

Trump said Thursday the CIA report had “feelings certain ways” but no clear conclusion on the role of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia in the death and dismemberment of Khashoggi inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2. The crown prince and his father, King Salman, said they did not commit “this atrocity,” Trump said.

“It’s a terrible thing. I dislike it more than you do,” Trump told reporters while on vacation last week in Florida. “But the fact is … they create tremendous wealth, really tremendous jobs in their purchases and very importantly, they keep the oil price down.”

King said Trump’s response was “amazing” because it “basically said we’ve got an important relationship with Saudi Arabia, therefore we’re going to turn a blind eye to this.”

“It’s not that easy,” King said. “It undermines our credibility abroad. … We do have to make these difficult decisions. But so far what they’re doing is giving a pass to this guy. And I think it gives a pass to dictators around the world. That’s the danger. It undermines our authority and the authority of our values across the planet.”


King, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said the CIA gave the committee a “comprehensive” confidential briefing on the matter, but his comments were based on what was available to the public.

“He’s in total control,” King said of Prince Mohammed. “And you know we’re not going to find an email that says ‘don’t forget the bone saw,’ but it was pretty clear without reference to what we heard in that briefing.”

King also took issue with Trump’s characterization of the CIA report: “My first response to that is the CIA doesn’t do feelings. They do assessments and they do assessments based upon intelligence from all sources.”

California Rep. Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, who was also briefed on the report, said Trump was “dishonest” in how he characterized the CIA’s finding.

Saudi prosecutors have said a 15-man team sent to Istanbul killed Khashoggi with tranquilizers and dismembered his body, which has not been found.

Also Sunday, King said he did not think it was “appropriate” to use U.S. military troops at the southern border for law enforcement purposes regarding asylum seekers, but it was OK for troops to support customs and border patrol agents.

“Now if indeed there was an invasion, which there isn’t, clearly we can defend ourselves,” King said, “but all the indications are this was an overreaction.”

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