Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said Wednesday that he would not support a new government-funding bill or the confirmation of Republican judicial nominees until the CIA is allowed to brief lawmakers on the assassination of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
“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.”
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of Defense James Mattis gave Congress a classified briefing on Khashoggi’s assassination at the hands of Saudi agents Wednesday morning, but CIA director Gina Haspel was not present. The briefing came ahead of a scheduled vote on whether to scale back U.S. support for the Saudi proxy war with Iran in Yemen.
White House officials reportedly instructed Haspel not to attend the briefing, likely in order to avoid a clash between Haspel, whose agents’ have determined Khashoggi was killed at the direction of Saudi crown prince Mohammad bin Salman, and White House officials, who have questioned the veracity of the CIA’s findings.
Following the briefing, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle criticized the administration for not including Haspel and said the meeting was of little value as a result of her absence.
“I don’t think the administration won any votes, won over any troubled Republicans in that briefing,” said Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut, adding that he was “more confident” following the briefing that lawmakers would pass the resolution to reduce U.S. military support for Saudi Arabia.
President Trump has already expressed a willingness to shut down the government if Democrats refuse to provide $5 billion to fund the construction of his long-promised border wall. The shutdown would take effect next Friday should lawmakers fail to pass a spending bill.