While President Donald Trump has repeatedly cast doubt on the CIA’s internal, and still secret, determination concerning the brutal murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi nearly two months ago, it was reported on Tuesday that while members of the U.S. Senate will receive a briefing from the Trump adminstration on Wednesday, neither the director of the CIA Gina Haspel nor other intelligence officials will participate.
“Trump and John Bolton not only refuse to even listen to the Turkish tape about Khashoggi’s murder, but they are also keeping CIA Director Gina Haspel away from Senate briefing because the CIA points the finger at the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.” —Medea Benjamin, CodePink
The briefing to the entire Senate will be led by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary James Mattis and focus on the U.S.-Saudi relationship ahead of an expected vote in the afternoon that seeks to end the U.S. involvement in the Kingdom’s brutal war on neighboring Yemen.
But as the Guardian reports, administration officials “made it clear that the decision for Haspel not to appear in front of the committee came from the White House.”
A contentious nominee to take over the agency in the first place—largely due to her own sordid history related to the agency’s torture and killing of detainees—the absence of Haspel seemed to many like a glaring affront to the lawmakers who would receive the briefing.
“On a national security issue of such importance, it would be customary for a senior intelligence official to take part,” the Guardian ‘s Julian Borger noted. “On this occasion, the absence of the intelligence community is all the more glaring, as Haspel traveled to Istanbul to hear audio tapes of Khashoggi’s murder provided by Turkish intelligence, and then briefed Donald Trump.”
It was a detail that others noted as well:
Despite having traveled to Istanbul to hear audio tapes of Jamal Khashoggi’s murder, Gina Haspel will not be appear at a Senate briefing on US relations with Saudi Arabia. #JusticeForJamal https://t.co/flCILEzlfp
— PEN America (@PENamerican) November 27, 2018
An unnamed Senate staffer who spoke to Borger said, “There is always an intel person there for a briefing like this. It is totally unprecedented and should be interpreted as nothing less than the Trump administration trying to silence the intelligence community.”
John Bolton says he has not listened to Khashoggi recording.
"What do you think I'll learn from it?" he asks. "Everybody who says 'Why don't you listen to the tape'—unless you speak Arabic, what are you going to get from it?" https://t.co/CiAEOPm22E pic.twitter.com/mv6eWmwaUS
— ABC News (@ABC) November 27, 2018
Medea Benjamin, co-founder of the anti-war group CodePink, said the Trump administration’s position is deeply troubling.
“Trump and John Bolton not only refuse to even listen to the Turkish tape about Khashoggi’s murder, but they are also keeping Haspel away from the Senate briefing because the CIA points the finger at the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS),” Benjamin told Common Dreams via email.
“It’s mind-boggling what lengths the administration is going through to shield MBS, but there’s no way to put lipstick on this pig,” she added. “The world now sees MBS for the evil dictator he is, and the Senate must now do the right thing by supporting SJR54—the resolution to end U.S. support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen.”
Urgent vote next few days! Khashoggi was killed in part for his vocal opposition to the war in #Yemen. Call your Senators at 202-224-3121 & ask them to seek #JusticeForJamal by passing #SJRes54 to end US support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen. #YemenCantWait pic.twitter.com/CdK7i8nllf
— Paul Kawika Martin (@PaulKawika) November 27, 2018
With CodePink, Win Without War, Peace Action, and other groups urging constituents to call their Senators and demand they support the resolution, the vote could come as early as Wednesday afternoon.