President Donald Trump will prevent CIA Director Gina Haspel or any other United States intelligence officer from speaking to the U.S. Senate concerning the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, an exiled Saudi journalist and Washington Post columnist.
According to a new report by The Guardian newspaper, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis, will jointly give a briefing on relations with Saudi Arabia to the entire Senate on Wednesday.
This will be a closed door session, not open to the press. After the hearing will come a Senate vote that could cut off United States support for Saudi Arabia’s military campaign in Yemen.
Haspel, the only person who has heard a recording of the murder of Khashoggi, will not be allowed to brief the senators on what she knows. Late last month she went to Istanbul to personally listen to the tapes of Khashoggi’s murder that are in possession of Turkish Intelligence. After returning to Washington Haspel briefed President Trump, but he refused to listen to the tapes himself. The CIA subsequently concluded that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) ordered the murder of Khashoggi which took place on October 2 the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
Senators had been expecting to hear on Wednesday from Haspel, but instead they will be briefed only by Pompeo and Mattis.
Julian Borger of the Guardian wrote that it would be customary for a senior intelligence official to take part on such an important national security issue.
“Officials made it clear that the decision for Haspel not to appear in front of the committee came from the White House,” Borger wrote. He then added:
“According to Senate staffers there is always an intel person there for a briefing like this. It is totally unprecedented and should be interpreted as nothing less than the Trump administration trying to silence the intelligence community.”
The CIA concluded with high level of confidence that Mohammed bin Salman ordered the murder of the dissident journalist.
Trump has dismissed the CIA conclusion, offering continuing support of the Crown Prince. When asked if he agreed with the CIA’s conclusion that MBS had ordered Khashoggi killed, Trump responded by saying “maybe he did and maybe he didn’t. They didn’t conclude.”
Then he added,
“No no, they didn’t conclude. I’m sorry. No they didn’t conclude. They did not come to a conclusion. They have feelings certain ways… I don’t know if anyone’s going to be able to conclude the crown prince did it.”
Trump’s support of the crown prince is not shared by many senators. Several have decided to vote against continuing military support to Saudi Arabia for their war in Yemen which has killed more than 50,000 people.
The Saudi’s use of economic blockades has caused widespread famine, and international relief agencies estimate that 85,000 children are dying of starvation.
Because of this, Trump is nervous that the Senate will vote against continuing support for Riyadh and Prince Mohammed, which would cause him to lose face with someone who is one of his biggest business supporters.
Trump’s failure to let the CIA Director testify in front of the Senate on a matter of U.S. intelligence is just one more example of how he puts his personal business interests ahead of the interests of the country which he has sworn to serve.