Tuesday morning’s testimony by CIA Director Gina Haspel on the murder of Jamal Khashoggi has those senators permitted to attend more convinced than ever that the Saudi Crown Prince was behind the plot. Senators are now saying they have “zero doubt” that is indeed what happened.
In early October, reporter Jamal Khashoggi entered the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, and was never seen again. Saudi officials have confirmed that a 15-man kill team dispatched to the consulate killed him, though they have persistently denied that the crown prince was involved.
As Khashoggi was a permanent US resident, this murder is a matter of some import, and many in Congress want a clear rebuke of the Saudis for killing him. Haspel’s testimony was closed-door and classified, but those senators who spoke to reporters said she confirmed the suspicions.
That should be unsurprising, as the White House had previously forbade Haspel testifying to the Senate, and the CIA had an assessment that expressed “high confidence” the crown prince was directing the murder. This looms large over an upcoming Senate vote on US involvement in the Saudi War in Yemen, with many wanting to withdraw US support as part of a measure to rebuke them.
Sens. Bob Corker (R-TN) an Bob Menendez (D-NJ) both said their views were solidified by the Haspel testimony, though Corker said he doubted it changed many minds, adding that “you have to be willfully blind not to come to the conclusion” even before the testimony.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) was also at the meeting, and came out concluding that the Saudi prince is “crazy” and “dangerous.” He added that he does not view the prince as a reliable partner for the US.
Indications were that this testimony was a last ditch administration attempt to try to save the Yemen War from a vote by senators angry that Haspel was blocked from testifying. Yet most senators were forbidden from hearing her at any rate, and the few allowed at the briefing came out more convinced than ever of their position, so it is unlikely that the vote will be dramatically changed.
The White House has yet to comment further on the matter, though President Trump had already set out a position on the prince that “maybe he did and maybe he didn’t,” and that either way he wouldn’t allow US support for the Saudis to change.