Sen Warner: Saudi response on Khashoggi ‘strains any credibility’

Sen. Mark Warner said Tuesday that denial of knowledge from the Saudi regime about the disappearance of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi after he visited the Turkish Saudi Consulate “strains” the nation’s credibility.

“This was not some dark alley, this was inside the Saudi Consulate,” Warner, a Virginia Democrat who is the vice chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, told CNN’s Jake Tapper on “The Lead.” “It strains any credibility that somehow the leadership of the Saudi regime, which is so authoritarian, wouldn’t have knowledge of these actions.”

“I don’t think I trust the Saudis on this because I don’t think they’ve been very forthcoming,” Warner added. “I think there needs to be a full-fledged international investigation, and it appears to me that the Saudi story, even in the last 24 hours, has been changing to where they may be acknowledging that the journalist Khashoggi was murdered, but somehow presenting the notion that it was rogue elements.”

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman and his son Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman have denied involvement in Khashoggi’s disappearance. Khashoggi, who was critical of the Saudi regime in his columns, was last seen entering the Saudi Consulate in Turkey on October 2. After two days, Saudi Arabia’s government issued a statement confirming that Khashoggi was missing but claiming that he had left the consulate freely.

After international pressure for answers surrounding Khashoggi’s disappearance, CNN reported Monday that Saudi Arabia is preparing a report that will say Khashoggi’s death was the result of an interrogation that went wrong, one that had been intended to lead to his abduction from Turkey, according to two sources.

One source says the report will likely conclude that the operation was carried out without clearance and transparency and that those involved will be held responsible.

On Monday, President Donald Trump suggested after a phone call with King Salman about the case that “rogue killers” could be behind Khashoggi’s disappearance. Trump said the King had told him “in a very firm way that they had no knowledge of it.”

Warner added Tuesday that while he thinks Trump’s response to Khashoggi’s disappearance hasn’t been strong enough, there is agreement in the Senate over the seriousness of the issue.

“Our government has stood for a free press. We’ve stood for human rights,” he said. “This President has not been willing to voice those kinds of feelings, but clearly there’s a broad base of bipartisan senators who will try to hold the Saudi government accountable if this all proves to be the case.”