GOP senator calls on Gina Haspel to join senators' briefing on Saudi controversy

Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker warned Monday there will be "a lot happening" in Congress on Sa...

Posted: Nov 27, 2018 5:01 AM
Updated: Nov 27, 2018 5:01 AM

Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker warned Monday there will be "a lot happening" in Congress on Saudi Arabia, including a vote as soon as this week calling for an end to US involvement in Yemen, as he renewed demands for CIA Director Gina Haspel to brief senators this week about the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Corker, a Tennessee Republican who is retiring at the end of his term in January, suggested that the planned Wednesday briefing from Defense Secretary James Mattis and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo alone would not be sufficient in answering the growing number of questions about Khashoggi's death. Questions still remain over how strongly Congress should respond in attempting to punish the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, over the murder.

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At the same time, Corker said that he expected the Senate to vote this week on a privileged resolution -- authored by Sens. Bernie Sanders, a Vermont independent; Mike Lee, a Utah Republican; and Chris Murphy, Connecticut Democrat -- to end US involvement in the Saudi-led war in Yemen. That measure was tabled, 55-44, earlier this year, but its chances of passing are stronger now in light of the Khashoggi murder.

Corker also said that there could be action in his committee as soon as Wednesday on Saudi Arabia, though senators are still discussing what legislative proposals could come up during that meeting. Moreover, Corker said that they may look at "additional legislation" targeting the crown prince, potentially even by attaching spending legislation Congress must clear by December 7.

And Corker said he was looking at making "some enhancements" to a request for the Trump administration to investigate whether bin Salman committed human rights violations and should be slapped with sanctions under the federal Magnitsky Act.

"Right now, Mattis and Pompeo are coming," Corker said. "I just recommend to them strongly as I did to (Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell) over the weekend, it would be very good for the CIA director to be there too. I think people are going to care a great deal about what's happening in Yemen no question, but they also are going to care a great deal about the CIA views on the crown prince and that's going to affect people as what happens on the Lee-Sanders vote, which will occur sometime Wednesday or Thursday, it appears, this week."

He added: "There will be a lot happening" on Saudi Arabia.

Despite concerns with Saudi Arabia, Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn threw cold water on moving forward with the Sanders-Lee-Murphy proposal: "I hope we don't give Iran a pass in Yemen."

A US official told CNN Friday that there is still is no smoking gun implicating the crown prince directly and the intelligence assessment is ongoing. As part of that process, the CIA is analyzing relevant intelligence within the context of what is already known about the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the official said.

Intelligence officials have said the CIA presented the President with a confidence-based assessment given the facts of the situation.

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