Senator Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., long one of Saudi Arabia’s most vocal defenders in Congress, said Tuesday that the kingdom’s nearly all-powerful crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, has “got to go” and vowed never to return to the country as long as the young leader remains in power. Graham also pledged to impose sanctions.
Later Tuesday, the influential member of the Senate Armed Services Committee said he favored suspending US weapons sales to the country.
“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, a close ally of President Donald Trump, said during an interview with “Fox & Friends.”
Graham added that “there is a difference between a country and an individual,” but said that bin Salman is “toxic” and “can never be a world leader on the world stage.”
The senator’s remarks come as Saudi Arabia faces down a global outcry amid accusations that it orchestrated the killing of a journalist critical of the crown prince. Jamal Khashoggi, a contributor to The Washington Post, has not been seen since entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul earlier this month.
Trump has downplayed the accusations against the crown prince, and told reporters on Monday that the denial from King Salman was “very strong.” The president dispatched Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to meet with top officials in the country, while floating the alternative theory that Khashoggi might have been murdered by “rogue killers.”
Graham’s decision to continue his offensive against the country on a platform that Trump is known to watch is noteworthy.
“This guy has got to go,” Graham said Tuesday of bin Salman. Then, turning directly to the camera, Graham issued a striking plea that seemed to urge a power shuffle in the country.
“Saudi Arabia, if you’re listening, there are a lot of good people you can choose,” Graham said. “But MBS has tainted your country and tainted yourself.”
Asked about what he meant, Graham said, “it’s your job, not mine to pick your leader.”