WASHINGTON, Oct 16 (Reuters) - U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham, a Republican close to President Donald Trump, on Tuesday accused Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of ordering the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi and called him a “wrecking ball” who is jeopardizing relations with the United States.
Many members of the U.S. Congress, which has long had a testy relationship with Saudi Arabia, have issued strong criticism of the kingdom since Khashoggi’s disappearance at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2.
Graham put the blame directly on the crown prince, who is known by his initials, MbS.
“Nothing happens in Saudi Arabia without MbS knowing it,” he said in an interview with Fox News.
“I’ve been their biggest defender on the floor of the United States Senate,” Graham said. “This guy is a wrecking ball. He had this guy murdered in a consulate in Turkey and to expect me to ignore it. I feel used and abused,” Graham said.
“The MbS figure is to me toxic. He can never be a world leader on the world stage.”
Saudi Arabia denies that it had any role in Khashoggi’s disappearance. But last week, 22 senators triggered a U.S. investigation of whether human rights sanctions should be imposed over the disappearance of Khashoggi.
Graham said he did not know what Trump was going to do about the incident, which involves the United States’ close but complicated relationship with Saudi Arabia.
“I know what I’m going to do. I’m going to sanction the hell out of Saudi Arabia,” Graham said. “I feel personally offended. They have nothing but contempt for us. Why would you put a guy like me and the president and in this box after all the president has done? This guy’s gotta go.”
Trump has taken a less aggressive stance toward the Saudis, suggesting on Monday after speaking with Saudi King Salman that perhaps “rogue killers” were behind the disappearance of Khashoggi, a sharp critic of the crown prince.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met the Saudi king and crown prince on Tuesday to discuss the disappearance of Khashoggi. (Reporting by Doina Chiacu; Editing by Alistair Bell)