Gina Haspel met with a select group of senators on Tuesday to discuss Saudi involvement in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. If the goal was to “mollify lawmakers,” as The New York Times reported beforehand, it doesn’t seem to have worked.
Several senators, including Republicans Bob Corker of Tennessee and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, have indicated their discomfort with the Trump administration’s inaction on the Khashoggi killing.* Last week, the Senate voted 63 to 37 to consider limiting the president’s powers to support the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen. Matters escalated over the weekend, when The Wall Street Journal reported that the CIA was in possession of evidence that Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) had sent “at least 11 messages to his closest adviser, who oversaw the team that killed ... Khashoggi, in the hours before and after the journalist’s death in October.”
Early quotes from senators present at the briefing suggest they emerged, if anything, more persuaded of MBS’s likely involvement in the killing:
As Jeet Heer previously pointed out in The New Republic, President Trump has adopted a posture of epistemological helplessness with regard to the killing, both refusing to listen to the tape of Khashoggi’s murder and saying no one can ever “really know” what happened. He has also repeatedly inflated the value of U.S.-Saudi arms deals.
*This post previously misidentified the state that Lindsey Graham represents.