A bipartisan group of senior senators said on Tuesday that a classified briefing by the C.I.A. director had only solidified their belief that Mohammed bin Salman, the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, ordered the killing of the Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi.
Prince Mohammed “is a wrecking ball,” Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, told reporters after an hourlong briefing by the C.I.A. director, Gina Haspel. “I think he’s complicit in the murder of Mr. Khashoggi to the highest level possible.”
Senator Richard C. Shelby, Republican of Alabama and the Appropriations Committee chairman, echoed that “all evidence points to that, that all this leads back to the crown prince.”
“This is conduct that none of us in America would approve of in any way,” Mr. Shelby said.
The clear and unusually biting assessment put Republican senators at odds with the White House, which has steadfastly refused to cast blame on Saudi Arabia’s leadership for the grisly death of Mr. Khashoggi, an American resident and Washington Post columnist. His killing prompted international outrage over the kingdom’s heavy-handed tactics and renewed attention to the Saudi-led war in Yemen.
Senators were eager to hear directly from Ms. Haspel about what officials have described as the C.I.A.’s conclusion that Prince Mohammed had ordered Mr. Khashoggi’s killing. The intelligence agency is also believed to have evidence that the crown prince communicated repeatedly with an aide who commanded the team that assassinated Mr. Khashoggi, around the time of the journalist’s death on Oct. 2.
Yet lawmakers remained divided over what steps to take next, after a stinging vote last week to consider a measure cutting off American military aid to Saudi Arabia’s bombing campaign.
Other punishments being considered included sanctions against Prince Mohammed and others involved in Mr. Khashoggi’s killing — even as it remained unclear how that would work against the de facto Saudi leader, and whether it would upend the broader relationship between the United States and the kingdom.