White House Just Blocked CIA Director Gina Haspel From Briefing The Senate On Jamal Khashoggi’s Murder

One Senate staffer called this decision an attempt by Trump to 'silence the intelligence community.'

CIA Director Gina Haspel listens as U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a cabinet meeting at the White House June 21, 2018 in Washington, DC.
Win McNamee / Getty Images

One Senate staffer called this decision an attempt by Trump to 'silence the intelligence community.'

In what can only be described as an unprecedented move, the White House has decided against allowing CIA Director Gina Haspel brief Senators on Jamal Khashoggi’s murder in advance of an important vote that could cut off America’s support for Saudi Arabia’s military campaign in Yemen, according to the Guardian.

While it may be customary for intelligence officials to attend a briefing ahead of a Senate vote that concerns national security, Trump administration’s decision to prevent Haspel from briefing the Senate speaks to the president’s apparent support of Saudi Arabia. This news comes despite conclusions reached by some within the intelligence community whom postulate that the Wahhabi nation — and its crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman — are responsible for the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul back in October. Any confirmation of that report could potentially have influenced senators in advance of a vote that will determine the level of American support for Saudi Arabian military excursions in war-torn Yemen.

Moreover, as has been previously reported by Haaretz, Gina Haspel traveled to Istanbul earlier this month and heard the “death tapes” — audio recordings purportedly made of Khashoggi’s murder as allegedly carried out by a Saudi death squad. The tapes have also been sent to the U.K., France, Germany, and Canada via Turkey. Despite this, Trump has not listened to the tapes himself — saying in an interview that there was “no reason” for him to hear what he called “a suffering tape” — and the president now appears intent on not letting the intelligence community comment on the journalist’s murder in front of the Senate.

The White House would only allow the secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, and the defense secretary, James Mattis, to give the briefing to the senators instead. One Senator’s staffer called the White House’s decision to block Haspel from briefing the Senate an attempt to “silence the intelligence community.”

“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.”

Senators were looking forward to the briefing on Wednesday, and believed that Haspel would be present to tell them first-hand about the intelligence community’s conclusions as to Jamal Khashoggi’s murder. As unprecedented as the move is, Trump is playing into Saudi hands by helping them cover-up one of the worst attacks on journalists in recent times said Bruce Riedel of the Brookings Institution. Riedel is a veteran CIA official, and an expert on the U.S.-Saudi relationship.

“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,” he concluded.