Graham told Fox and Friends he feels 'personally offended' over what's happened to Khashoggi (AFP)
US Senator Lindsey Graham has blamed the Saudi crown prince for the murder of US-based Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi and said that he is “going to sanction the hell out Saudi Arabia” during a TV appearance on Tuesday morning.
Grahams comments on the Fox and Friends show came hours after reports emerged that the Saudi government plans to admit that Khashoggi was killed after he entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on 2 October.
Saudi Arabia, if you are listening, there are a lot of good people you can choose but MBS has tainted your country and tainted himself
– US Senator Lindsey Graham
Sources have cautioned that the report is still being prepared and could change, and may conclude that the operation was carried out without clearance of the Saudi leadership, or carried out by an incompetent intelligence official.
But the admission itself would mark a stark reversal from earlier statements by Saudi officials who insisted that Khashoggi left the building a short time after he arrived, and has already set off US politicians on both sides of the aisle who have been outspoken about the case.
Representative Gerry Connolly, a Democrat in whose northern Virginia district Khashoggi has been living, told Middle East Eye on Tuesday morning, in light of the overnight revelations, that "all options, including punitive sanctions, must be considered by the Trump administration".
"The United States cannot stand idly by, irrespective of our longstanding relationship with Saudi Arabia, and allow what happened to Mr Khashoggi to occur with impunity," he said.
Back on Fox, Graham said that nothing could happen in Saudi Arabia without the crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, knowing about it.
"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. I was on the [Senate] floor every time defending Saudi Arabia because they were a good ally."
Graham, a Republican from South Carolina, is one of 22 US senators who sent a letter to US President Donald Trump last week, triggering an investigation into the veteran Saudi journalist's disappearance under the 2012 Magnitsky Act.
Under the act, which was used against Russian nationals involved in serious crimes, Trump has 120 days to determine whether to impose sanctions against any foreign nationals involved in what happened to Khashoggi.
Graham told Fox and Friends that "it's up to the president" to decide what he wants to do. "But I know what I'm going to do – I'm going to sanction the hell out of Saudi Arabia."
The United States cannot stand idly by, irrespective of our longstanding relationship with Saudi Arabia, and allow what happened to Mr Khashoggi to occur with impunity
– US Representative Gerry Connolly
He then turned directly to the camera and said: "Saudi Arabia, if you are listening, there are a lot of good people you can choose but MBS has tainted your country and tainted himself."
In a letter on Friday, leaders of the House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs told Trump that they supported the senators' push for an investigation under Magnitsky and called on Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin to cancel his plans to attend the upcoming "Davos in the Desert" conference to be held in Riyadh.
"We value our relations with Saudi Arabia. Yet murder and other blatant violations of international norms and agreements cannot be done with impunity," wrote Representative Ed Royce, chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, and Representative Eliot Engel, ranking member of the committee.
Pressure has also come from Republican Senator Rand Paul who has pushed to cut funding, training and other coordination with the Saudi military "until Khashoggi is returned alive".