CIA director Gina Haspel has seen and heard the gruesome evidence. She went to Turkey and was given the proof collected by the Turkish government that Saudi Arabian Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi was brutally murdered and dismembered by a team of Saudi assassins who flew to Istanbul specifically to carry out the plot. She heard the intercepted phone call back to Riyadh informing “the boss” that the deed was done.
Yet, when the Senate receives a closed-door briefing on the killing that has implicated the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in the ordering of the grisly slaying of his journalistic critic, Haspel will not be involved in giving the assembled Senators her first-hand account of the evidence she was presented with nor will she be able to defend the CIA’s conclusion that it was indeed the Crown Prince who was ultimately responsible for the politically motivated assassination — as nearly everyone in the world with the exception of President Trump and the Saudi king believes.
According to an article in The Guardian, Haspel’s absence from the briefing, highly unusual for a Senate hearing involving national security and intelligence issues, was specifically ordered by the White House. Instead, Defense Secretary James Mattis and Trump-loyalist Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will be conducting the briefing.
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President Trump has continued to ignore the CIA findings, buttressed by copious evidence provided by the Turkish intelligence services, and has essentially decided that the issue of the Saudi Crown Prince’s innocence or guilt is irrelevant, “Maybe he did, maybe he didn’t,” Trump said in dismissing the CIA’s findings.
The morally-deficient transactional president places more value on the money the U.S. makes on arms sales to the Middle-Eastern petroleum giant and on the Saudi assistance in keeping oil prices low than on ensuring that justice is rendered in an international crime that would end the career of any leader among civilized nations.
Many Senators are disturbed by Trump’s equivocation and seeming obstruction in their attempt to learn the truth about the Crown Prince’s involvement in political murder.
“There is always an intel person there for a briefing like this,” a Senate staffer told The Guardian. “It is totally unprecedented and should be interpreted as nothing less than the Trump administration trying to silence the intelligence community.”
According to The Guardian:
“Bruce Riedel, a veteran CIA official and an expert on the US-Saudi relationship at the Brookings Institution, said: ‘Gina [Haspel] has been the case officer on this. She traveled to Turkey and she is the one who listened to the tapes and is reported to have briefed the president multiple times. This is further evidence that the White House is trying to outdo the Saudis in carrying out the worst cover-up in modern history,’ Riedel added.”
With the Senate now responding to the outrage over Khashoggi’s murder by reassessing American support for Saudi Arabia’s devastating war in Yemen, today’s briefing is crucial in determining whether Congress continues to allocate money to fund military assistance to the country while Trump and the Saudi king continue to deny Mohammed bin Salman’s involvement in the crime.
Without the threat of a breach of the long relationship with the United States, Saudi Arabia has little incentive to cease their impunity. The Trump administration’s attempts to protect them for financial reasons, including potentially his own enrichment due to the Trump Organization’s deals in the region, is not only misguided, but it’s also deeply immoral and damaging to America’s former status as a force for justice in the world.
Let’s hope the Senate, even with an inadequate briefing, makes the right decision and cuts off military aid to Saudi Arabia until they remove Mohammed bin Salman from power and hold him accountable for his brutal actions.
Follow Vinnie Longobardo on Twitter.
Original reporting by Julian Borger at The Guardian.