The top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said after a CIA briefing on murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi that the administration was making the "wrong calculation" in declining to blame the de facto Saudi leader.
"I think they're making a wrong calculation," New Jersey Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez said Tuesday on CNN's "Erin Burnett OutFront."
Members of both parties who attended a briefing on Tuesday with CIA Director Gina Haspel left the session doubling down on their criticism of President Donald Trump, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary James Mattis.
The President and his top diplomatic and military Cabinet heads have dismissed notions of certainty around the Khashoggi killing and declined to blame Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for the October slaying. CNN previously reported the CIA concluded bin Salman personally ordered the killing. The Saudis have denied bin Salman's involvement.
Outgoing Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker, the GOP chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said after the briefing that bin Salman "ordered" and "monitored" Khashoggi's murder.
Menendez, in his CNN interview, said Trump, Pompeo and Mattis were "all toeing the same line" and wrongly assuming it was in the strategic benefit of the US -- including on Iran and global oil prices -- to avoid blaming the Saudi crown prince.
"They're all in with the crown prince," Menendez said. "They think that it's strategic to the administration's views."
But Menendez contended that Saudi Arabia would remain opposed to Iran and rely on US weapons systems in any event. He said both he and Corker had called for a determination under the Global Magnitsky Act on whether to push sanctions on bin Salman directly and called for the US to send "a very strong message" to the Saudi king about bin Salman.
He maintained the US response to the killing of a journalist and critic of the Saudi government would have implications worldwide.
"It's not just the Saudis," Menendez said. "It's also a global message."