CIA director briefs US senators on journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s killing

CIA director briefs US senators on journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s killing

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Gina Haspel

CIA director Gina Haspel has briefed US Senate leaders on the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Ms Haspel met with a small group of senators, including the chairmen and ranking senators on the key national security committees.

Senators from both parties were angry last week that Ms Haspel did not attend a closed-door session with top administration officials about Mr Khashoggi’s killing and the US response, which many senators have said is lacking.

US secretary of state Mike Pompeo and defence secretary Jim Mattis led the earlier briefing and tried to dissuade senators from punishing Saudi Arabia with a resolution to curtail US backing for the Saudi-led war in Yemen.

Jamal Khashoggi, who the Saudis claim died accidentally in a brawl in the consulate in Istanbul

Human rights groups say the war is wreaking havoc on the country and subjecting civilians to indiscriminate bombing. After that briefing, South Carolina senator Lindsey Graham threatened to withhold his vote on key legislation until he heard from Ms Haspel.
“I’m not going to blow past this,” he said.

That afternoon, senators frustrated with the briefing and the lack of response to Mr Khashoggi’s killing overwhelmingly voted to move forward with consideration of the Yemen resolution, 63-37. The CIA said Ms Haspel did not attend because she had already briefed congressional leaders on Mr Khashoggi.

The agency later agreed to do an additional briefing with a select group of senators. Mr Graham was expected to attend Tuesday’s meeting, along with the top Republicans and Democrats on the Senate Armed Services, Foreign Relations and intelligence panels and a few others.

Some senators were frustrated that they were not invited to the briefing with Ms Haspel. Kentucky senator Rand Paul, a critic of Saudi Arabia, said that excluding some is “the very definition of the deep state” and that he suspected that the Trump administration is attempting to get some senators to switch their votes on the resolution by giving them information.

Mr Khashoggi was killed in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul two months ago. The journalist, who had lived for a time in the US and wrote for The Washington Post, had been critical of the Saudi regime. He was killed in what US officials have described as an elaborate plot as he visited the consulate for marriage paperwork.

US intelligence officials have concluded that the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman must have at least known of the plot, but President Donald Trump has equivocated over who was to blame.

Mr Trump has touted Saudi arms deals worth billions of dollars to the US and recently thanked Saudi Arabia for plunging oil prices.

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