Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Gina Haspel's Khashoggi brief convinced some Senators of MbS guilt

In some of their strongest accusations to date, lawmakers said evidence presented by the U.S. spy agency overwhelmingly pointed to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s involvement in the assassination [of journalist Jamal Khashoggi].

Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) said while there was no smoking gun, there was a “smoking saw,” referring to the bone saw that investigators have said was used to dismember Khashoggi after he was killed by a team of agents from Saudi Arabia in that country’s consulate in Istanbul in October.


[He] said the United States should come down on the government in Riyahd like “a ton of bricks,” adding that he could no longer support arms sales to the Saudis as long as Mohammed was in charge.


Haspel was noticeably absent last week from an all-senators briefing with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. Lawmakers complained that the Trump administration was depriving Congress of key information about the killing of Khashoggi, a Washington Post contributing columnist, by refusing to order Haspel to go to the Hill and explain the CIA’s assessment.


Senators put themselves in direct opposition to the White House, making clear that the evidence they heard had convinced them beyond the shadow of a doubt.

“If the Crown Prince went in front of a jury, he would be convicted in 30 minutes,” said Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), the chairman of the Committee on Foreign Relations.


Haspel provided the closed briefing just days before the Senate is expected to begin debating a resolution to withdraw U.S. support for the Saudi military campaign in Yemen.


Some senators had accused the White House of barring Haspel’s participation in last week’s briefing with Pompeo and Mattis. But CIA spokesman Timothy Barrett said nobody told Haspel not to appear.

Sure. Who knows? But last week all reports were that the order came from the White House that she shouldn't be there.
Haspel spoke only to Senate leaders and the heads of national security committees with an interest in Saudi policy regarding Yemen and the intelligence surrounding Khashoggi’s killing, according to multiple people familiar with the plans.


Bipartisan leaders from the Foreign Relations Committee, the Armed Services Committee, the Intelligence Committee, and the Appropriations subcommittees that fund the State and Defense departments were expected to be included.

Some rank-and-file senators were furious that they were excluded from the briefing.

“I can’t even ask to be included in it because I didn’t know it was going to happen, except for reading about it in the media. That’s not the way it should be. She should have come and testified in front of all senators,” Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) said. “If you have some senators who are more equal than others, that is not democratic representation.”
Surely Senator Paul, a Republican, isn't under the impression that we are living in a democracy.
Haspel’s briefing may have been designed to placate some [Republican] senators. But it is not expected to deter Senate Democrats — or the handful of Republicans who say Saudi Arabia should be rebuked — from supporting the Yemen resolution [for ending Saudi attacks that is being proposed by Senators Bernie Sanders and Mike Lee] beyond its next step, a vote expected to take place in the next few days.

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