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Senators send rebuke to Saudis, Trump over Khashoggi killing

AP  |  Washington 

Defying Donald Trump, senators sent a strong signal that they want to punish for its role in the killing of By a bipartisan 63-37 vote, the opted to move forward with legislation calling for an end to U.S. involvement in the Saudi-led war in

The vote on Wednesday was a rebuke not only to but also to Trump's administration, which has made clear it does not want to torpedo the long-standing U.S. relationship with over the killing.

and both came to Capitol Hill to urgently lobby against the resolution, which would call for an end to U.S. military assistance for the conflict that human rights advocates say is wreaking havoc on and subjecting civilians to indiscriminate bombing.

The vote showed a significant number of Republicans were willing to break with Trump to express their deep dissatisfaction with and with the US response to Khashoggi's brutal killing in last month.

officials have concluded that the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, must have at least known of the plot, but Trump has equivocated over who was to blame.

Khashoggi, who lived in the U.S. and wrote for The Washington Post, was publicly critical of the Saudi He was killed in what U.S. officials have described as an elaborate plot at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, which he had visited for marriage paperwork.

Echoing Trump's public comments on the killing, Pompeo said after Wednesday's briefing with senators that there was "no direct reporting" connecting the to the murder, and Mattis said there was "no smoking gun" making the connection.

Pompeo argued that the war in would be "a hell of a lot worse" if the were not involved.

Wednesday's procedural vote sets up a floor debate on the resolution next week. It would be largely a symbolic move, however, as House Republican leaders have given no indication they would take up the war powers measure before the end of the year the end of the current

Several senators said they were angry about the absence of CIA from the pre-vote briefing.

New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez, the top Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, speculated that Haspel didn't attend because she "would have said with a high degree of confidence that the of Saudi Arabia was involved in the murder of "

And Lindsey Graham, the South Carolina Republican who is often strongly allied with Trump, voted to move forward with the resolution and said he would insist on a briefing from Haspel. He even threatened to withhold his vote on key measures if that didn't happen and declared, "I'm not going to blow past this."

CIA said that no one kept Haspel away from the briefing.

He said the CIA had already briefed the intelligence committee and Senate leaders and "will continue to provide updates on this important matter to policymakers and "

In another explanation, a said Haspel decided not to participate in part because of frustration with lawmakers leaking classified intelligence from such settings. The spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal matters.

The procedural vote received more Republican support than had been expected after the resolution, sponsored by Republican Sen. of and Independent Sen. of Vermont, fell six votes short of passage earlier this year.

Bob Corker, R-Tenn., said in the past he had "laid in the railroad tracks to keep us from doing things that I believe are against our national interest as it relates to Saudi Arabia." But he said he believes the Senate should "figure out some way for us to send the appropriate message to Saudi Arabia that appropriately displays American values and American national interests."

He said the crown prince "owns this death. He owns it." Senate Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., voted against moving ahead with the resolution but said a day earlier that "some kind of response" was needed from the for the Saudis' role in Khashoggi's death.

On Tuesday, he said that "what obviously happened, as basically certified by the CIA, is completely abhorrent to everything the holds dear and stands for in the world." Pompeo said U.S. involvement in the Yemen conflict is central to the Trump administration's broader goal of containing Iranian influence in the

His language was blunt in a article, writing that Khashoggi's murder "has heightened the Capitol Hill caterwauling and But degrading U.S.-Saudi ties would be a grave mistake for the national security of the US and its allies."

Trump has said it may never be known who was responsible for the killing, and in public comments and a long and unusual statement last week he reinforced the United States' long-standing alliance with the Saudis. Trump has praised a pending arms deal with the kingdom that he says will provide the US with jobs and lucrative payments, though some outside assessments say the economic benefits are exaggerated.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Thu, November 29 2018. 16:05 IST