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Corker: Trump administration ‘clamped down’ on Saudi intel, canceled briefing

Corker: Trump administration ‘clamped down’ on Saudi intel, canceled briefing

Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) said Wednesday that the Trump administration is restricting access to information about a missing Saudi journalist, a move that comes as President Trump has publicly echoed denials of wrongdoing from top Saudi officials.
Corker, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told The Washington Post that the administration had “clamped down” on sharing intelligence about Washington Post contributor Jamal Khashoggi, a critic of the Saudi government who has been missing for more than two weeks.
“I can only surmise that probably the intel is not painting a pretty picture as it relates to Saudi Arabia,” Corker told The Post.
Corker added that the administration canceled an intelligence briefing scheduled for Tuesday and that he was told additional information would not be shared with the Senate at this time, a development he described as “disappointing.”
Spokespeople for Corker didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment from The Hill on Wednesday night.
With the Senate out of town for a roughly month-long recess, Corker has remained largely silent this week as the latest drama around Khashoggi’s disappearance and potential slaying has played out on the world stage.
But he told reporters late last week that “everything indicates” that Khashoggi was murdered by the Saudis.
He went a step further on Wednesday, telling the Post that, based on earlier intelligence he was able to review, “everything points … to MBS,” he said referring to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
“This could not have happened without his approval,” Corker added.
Khashoggi was last seen Oct. 2 entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to get paperwork needed for his upcoming marriage.
Turkish officials say they have an audio recording that backs up their claim that Khashoggi was murdered inside the consulate and told The New York Times on Wednesday that he was beheaded and dismembered minutes after he entered the consulate.
Saudi Arabia has denied wrongdoing, initially saying Khashoggi left the consulate shortly after he arrived, though they’ve offered no evidence to support that claim.
CNN reported on Monday that Saudi Arabia was readying a report that would acknowledge Khashoggi’s death was the result of an interrogation that went wrong. One source told CNN that the report would likely find that the interrogation was carried out “without clearance.”
Trump on Wednesday said the U.S. has requested audio and video from Turkey related to Khashoggi’s disappearance.
“We have asked for it, if it exists,” Trump said in the Oval Office, later adding that it “possibly does.”
Trump’s request for the audio comes after he’s noted that, during their conversations, top Saudi officials have denied any involvement in Khashoggi’s disappearance and possible death.
Trump said in a tweet on Tuesday that he “just spoke” with Saudi Arabia’s crown prince “who totally denied any knowledge of what took place in their Turkish Consulate.” Trump also touted a denial from the Saudi king the previous day.
And in an interview with The Associated Press he likened the global outcry against Saudi Arabia to the controversy surrounding Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who was accused of sexual assault during his confirmation process.
“Here we go again with, you know, you’re guilty until proven innocent. I don’t like that,” Trump told the AP.