Sen. Lindsey Graham speaks during testimony by U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh before the Senate Judiciary Committee at the Dirksen Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill September 27, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Andrew Harnik-Pool/Getty Images)
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CIA Director Gina Haspel didn't attend a Senate briefing on the murder of Jamal Khashoggi and the Saudi war in Yemen. This struck lawmakers as odd, considering the CIA recently concluded that Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered Khashoggi's murder, and the senators had some follow-up questions.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C) was particularly disturbed by Haspel's absence, and he's vowing that he won't vote on any significant legislation until Haspel comes before the Senate, according to Hot Air.
Here's what Graham had to say:
"About the briefing: I'm glad we had it, I admire both secretaries, but it was inadequate because the CIA was not there," Graham told reporters afterward. "So the question for me is whether or not the CIA supports the conclusion with a high degree of confidence that the crown prince was complicit in the murder of Mr. Khashoggi.
"I get Yemen. I understand the strategic relationship between us and Saudi Arabia, but I'm not going to blow past this," Graham continued. "So, if that briefing is not given soon, it's going to be hard for me to vote for any spending bill. ... I'm not, quite frankly.
"I am not going to be denied the ability to be briefed by the CIA that we have oversight of about whether or not their assessment supports my belief that this could not have happened without MBS knowing. And if the briefing reinforces the conclusion that I already have tentatively formed, then there will be no more business as usual with Saudi Arabia."
Why didn't Haspel attend the briefing?
Multiple senators told The Daily Beast that President Donald Trump blocked Haspel from attending the briefing, which was attended by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis.
"The most persuasive presence at this briefing was an empty chair -- a chair that should have been occupied by Gina Haspel, head of the Central Intelligence Agency," said Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.). "We were told at this briefing that it was at the direction of the White House that she did not attend."
CIA press secretary Timothy Barrett told NBC News that nobody told Haspel not to attend the briefing. Pompeo and Mattis would not directly address the reason for Haspel's absence, and in response to questions about the CIA's Khashoggi conclusions, Pompeo said they had no "direct reporting" tying Mohammed to the murder.
Trump did not fully accept the CIA's reported conclusion, saying "maybe he did, maybe he didn't" in regard to whether Mohammed knew about the plot against Khashoggi beforehand.
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