CIA Director Will Brief Lawmakers on Assassination of Saudi Journalist

New CIA Director Gina Haspel in Langley, Va., May 21, 2018. (Kevin Lamarque/REUTERS )

CIA director Gina Haspel will brief lawmakers Tuesday on the assassination of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, the Wall Street Journal reported Monday afternoon.

The news comes after prominent senators on both sides of the aisle complained publicly about the Trump administration’s alleged efforts to prevent Haspel from briefing lawmakers.

White House officials reportedly told Haspel not to attend a classified congressional briefing on Saudi Arabia last Wednesday, prompting speculation that the officials sought to avoid a confrontation between Haspel, whose agents have determined with high confidence that Saudi crown prince Mohammad bin Salman ordered Khashoggi’s murder, and White House personnel who have cast doubt on that finding.

Following Haspel’s absence from the Wednesday briefing, Senator Lindsey Graham threatened to block Republican leadership’s legislative agenda until Haspel was invited to brief him and his colleagues.

“I’m not going to blow past this. If that briefing is not given soon, it’s gonna be hard for me to vote for any spending bill,” Graham told reporters on Capitol Hill.

When pressed on what specific measures he would oppose, Graham added, “I’m talking about any key vote. Anything that you need me for to get out of town, I ain’t doing it until we hear from the CIA.”

Khashoggi, a former Saudi royal insider who had become a critic of his home country’s ruling class in weekly columns for the Washington Post, disappeared on October 2 after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. Saudi officials later confirmed the findings of Turkish intelligence agents, who reported soon after Khashoggi’s death that he had been murdered and dismembered in the consulate by a team of Saudi assassins. They have maintained, however, that the crown prince did not order, and did not have foreknowledge of, Khashoggi’s murder.

President Trump and the White House have tacitly endorsed bin Salman’s denials of responsibility, and have said they will not impose sanctions beyond those already levied against 17 individuals believed to have been involved in the killing.

Khashoggi harshly criticized bin Salman in a series of prescient text messages he sent to another exiled critic of the royal family shortly before he was murdered.

“Arrests are unjustified and do not serve him (logic says), but tyranny has no logic, but he loves force, oppression and needs to show them off,” Khashoggi wrote in one of the messages, which was recently obtained by CNN. “He is like a beast ‘pac man’ the more victims he eats, the more he wants. I will not be surprised that the oppression will reach even those who are cheering him, then others and others and so on. God knows.”

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