CIA Director Gina Haspel departs the Capitol Rotunda after visiting the flag-draped casket of former President George H.W. Bush as he lies in state in Washington.
CIA Director Gina Haspel is set to brief Senate leaders behind closed doors Tuesday on what the spy agency has uncovered about the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
The CIA has not commented publicly on its assessment of the killing, and Haspel’s testimony is not supposed to be shared beyond the walls of the briefing room.
But many details have leaked. Those familiar with the CIA report say the agency believes Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was likely linked to the killing. However, the evidence is not definitive.
The senators did receive a briefing last week from Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Mattis said there was no “smoking gun” implicating the Saudi crown prince. Pompeo offered similar remarks, saying there was “no direct reporting” making the link.
Several senators were upset that Haspel was not included, prompting Tuesday’s session. Sen. Lindsey Graham, the South Carolina Republican, said last week he would block other matters before the Senate until heheard from the CIA on Khashoggi’s killing.
“I am not going to blow past this,” said Graham. “Anything that you need me for to get out of town — I ain’t doing it until we hear from the CIA.”
Khashoggi, who was living near Washington and contributing to The Washington Post, was killed after he entered the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2. The Saudis have acknowledged that government officials were responsible for the killing but describe it as a rogue operation and say that the crown prince was not involved.
President Trump and a number of lawmakers say that the U.S. relationship with Saudi Arabia is critically important and should not be completely ruptured over Khashoggi’s death.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, told The Wall Street Journal on Monday that “no response is certainly not appropriate. Looking away is not appropriate. But a complete fracture with Saudi Arabia, in my view, is not in our best interests.”
He added: “We’re looking for an appropriate response that doesn’t completely fracture the relationship.”
Tuesday’s briefing upset one senator who wasn’t invited.
“There’s a CIA briefing going on right now from which most rank-and-file senators have been excluded,” said Rand Paul, the Kentucky Republican. “I know information about the CIA’s conclusions only by reading about it in the media.”Share