CIA chief Haspel to brief House leadership on Khashoggi case

CIA Director Gina Haspel is set to give a classified briefing to leaders of the US House of Representatives on Wednesday on the what the intelligence agency knows about the murder of Saudi writer Jamal Khashoggi

The CIA has reportedly concluded that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) must have at least known about the plot to kill Khashoggi. 

Wednesday’s expected briefing comes just over a week after Haspel gave a similar one to Senate leaders. 

After that briefing, top senators said there is “zero chance” Prince Mohammed wasn’t involved in the murder of Khashoggi. 

“The views that I had before have only solidified,” Senator Bob Menendez, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said after the Senate briefing.

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham told reporters, “You have to be willfully blind not to come to the conclusion that this was orchestrated and organised by people under the command of MBS.” 

Khashoggi was killed on October 2 after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to obtain documents needed for his planned marriage. 

After offering contradictory statements for several days, Saudi Arabia admitted that Khashoggi was killed inside its consulate and his body was dismembered. The kingdom has repeatedly said Prince Mohammed had no knowledge of the killing, which Turkey said was ordered at the highest level of Saudi leadership. 

Yemen bill

Also on Wednesday, the Senate is expected to begin debating a bill aimed at limiting US involvement in the war in Yemen, where a Washington-backed Saudi-UAE coalition launched an intervention in 2015 through a massive air campaign targeting Houthi rebels.  

Meanwhile, House leadership have used stalling tactics to try to prevent a vote on a similar measure. On Tuesday, the Republican-led House Rules Committee quietly added a provision to an unrelated bill that would no longer give privileged status to the Yemen measure during this Congress. If the measure passes the full House, the Yemen bill would no longer be on an expedited track and Republican leadership would have more ways to block the measure from going to a vote. 

The White House strongly opposes any measure that would end US involvement in the conflict in Yemen. Last month, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis told the Senate behind closed doors that weakening US-Saudi ties over the killing would hurt national security. 

After the briefing, Pompeo said there is “no direct reporting connecting the crown prince to the order to murder Jamal Khashoggi”. 

On Wednesday, Pompeo told Fox News that investigations into the killing of Khashoggi were ongoing, but the US would hold those responsible to account. 

His comments came a day after President Donal Trump told Reuters news agency he was standing by MBS despite mounting pressure from Congress to condemn the crown prince over the murder. 

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