After being kept away from lawmakers last week, CIA Director Gina Haspel was allowed to give testimony on Tuesday on the intelligence report that implicates Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in the murder of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
While President Donald Trump seemed to shrug off the report as based on “feelings,” senators wanted to hear more about its findings, and insisted that Haspel speak directly to them.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) was among those insisting on hearing Haspel speak, threatening to hold off on voting on anything.
“If that briefing is not given soon, it’s going to be hard for me to vote for any spending bill,” Graham said. And after the meeting Tuesday, Graham seemed all the more convinced of MBS’s involvement in Khashoggi’s killing.
“You have to be willfully blind not to come to the conclusion that this was orchestrated and organized by people under the command of MBS,” he said.
Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) also said that his suspicions were confirmed.
“The views that I had before have only solidified,” said Menendez.
Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) also spoke to reporters after the meeting, saying, “I have zero question in my mind that the crown prince directed the murder and was kept appraised of the situation all the way through it.”
President Trump said he believed the crown prince, known as MBS, when he said he didn’t know how Khashoggi came to be murdered and dismembered in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul by a Saudi kill team of 15, but the senators seemed to have their doubts.
Last week, instead of Haspel, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis spoke to the senators in an effort to get them to back down from a vote that could result in the United States ceasing its support for Saudi coalition airstrikes in Yemen.
It did not work, with the Republican-led Senate passing the resolution on Wednesday.
In siding with the Yemeni government against the Houthi rebels, Saudi Arabia and its Gulf Arab partners have killed thousands of civilians. But it was Khashoggi’s brutal murder — and the attempted Saudi cover up of the crime — that finally pushed the Senate to act.
Haspel’s closed-door testimony, given before a small group of senators, leaving those who were not included fuming. Sens. Chris Murphy (D-CT), Mike Lee (R-UT), and Bernie Sanders (I-VT) — who co-sponsored the bill that would force the United States to stop supporting Saudi Arabia — were excluded from the meeting.
Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), who was not included in the meeting, said that leaving some lawmakers out was “the very definition of the deep state.”