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Graham says Saudi crown prince "has got to go," pushing harder line than Trump

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham looked straight into the camera Tuesday during one of the president's favorite shows, "Fox and Friends," and declared 33-year-old Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman has "got to go."

"Saudi Arabia, if you're listening, there are a lot of good people you can choose, but MBS has tainted your country and tainted himself," said Graham, one of Mr. Trump's most prominent Congressional allies. 

Graham's hardline stance against the Saudi leadership goes further than Mr. Trump himself has gone. The president has suggested there will be "severe consequences" if the Saudis are responsible for the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, but has also suggested "rogue killers" could be behind his disappearance.

The Saudi government originally said that Khashoggi, who disappeared earlier this month, entered and left its consulate in Istanbul despite Turkish claims that the journalist was killed by Saudi agents. Khashoggi's disappearance has since set off an international firestorm, partly because he often wrote for The Washington Post and was a permanent U.S. resident. 

The Saudis are now preparing to admit that Khashoggi died in their custody, CBS News' Kylie Atwood reports, as the result of a botched interrogation. A source told Atwood that the admission will come out in the form of a joint Turkish-Saudi statement.

Graham continued his tirade against the crown prince on Fox News Radio, saying "this is not rogue killers, this is a rogue crown prince." It's "game over for me with MBS," he added. 

Graham's comments come as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is in Saudi Arabia to speak with the Saudi king and review the situation. Graham said he, for one, will not return to Saudi Arabia while the crown prince has any control, saying he feels "used and abused" for having defended Saudi Arabia on the Senate floor. 

"I've been their biggest defender on floor of the United States Senate," Graham told Fox and Friends. "This guy is a wrecking ball. He had this guy murdered in consulate in Turkey. And to expect me to ignore it. I feel used and abused. I was on the floor every time defending Saudi Arabia because there is good ally. There is difference between a country and an individual. The MBS figure to me is toxic. He can never be a world leader on the world stage."

The president has continued to emphasize the importance of arms sales with the Saudis for U.S. jobs and the economy. 

"I tell you what I don't want to do. Boeing, Lockheed, Raytheon, all these com — I don't want to hurt jobs. I don't want to lose an order like that. There are other ways of — punishing, to use a word that's a pretty harsh word, but it's true," the president told CBS' "60 Minutes." 

But Congress might not stand for upholding such an agreement. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, said there is no pro-Saudi element in Congress that will stand by if Khashoggi was if the Saudis deliberately assassinated Khashoggi. 

"I can just tell you that in Congress right now, there is no pro-Saudi element that's going to stick with our relationship with Saudi Arabia as it's currently structured if, in fact, they lured this man into this consulate, killed him, and then cut up his body and send a team to go into that country to kill him in the first place," Rubio told CBS News' "Face the Nation." 

— CBS News' Alan He contributed to this report 

  • Kathryn Watson

    Kathryn Watson is a politics reporter for CBS News Digital.