CIA Director Gina Haspel will brief U.S. Senate “committee leaders” Tuesday, likely giving U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO) the chance to confirm his doubts about the CIA’s reported conclusion that Saudi Prince Mohammed bin Salman knew about the plot to kill journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
Last week, appearing on conservative talk radio, Gardner questioned the CIA’s position:
“Well, I would be careful of what the CIA is being accused of saying,” Gardner told KDMT radio host Jimmy Sengenberger Nov. 29. “And I think that was clear in a briefing yesterday. I can’t get into the details of it, but I would just be very careful about what the CIA does and doesn’t believe.”
Gardner’s comment turned heads because it reflected Trump’s stance on the Khashoggi murder, apparently making Gardner and Trump the only prominent Washington politicians who are skeptical of the reported conclusion of the CIA.
Even Secretary of State James Mattis, who said there was “no smoking gun” connecting the prince to the murder, refused to cast doubt directly on the CIA’s reported conclusion.
CNN reported Nov. 29
But when he was asked if it was true the CIA expressed high confidence, Mattis would only say, “there you need to go to the CIA.”
Politico’s Burgess Everett reported today:
The spy chief will meet with top leaders of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the Senate Intelligence Committee, according to a source familiar with the matter. The meeting comes ahead of a scheduled vote on whether the Senate will vote to pull support for the civil war in Yemen.
The number of attendees at the briefing could grow given the concern among both parties about Khashoggi’s killing at the Saudi Arabian consulate in Turkey earlier this year. [emphasis added]
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo last week failed to address concerns by senators, who demanded Haspel appear on Capitol Hill. The Senate then voted to advance the measure curtailing U.S. support for Saudi forces in Yemen, setting up critical procedural votes that could occur later this week or early next.