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'Mind Boggling': White House Keeping CIA Chief Gina Haspel From Briefing Senate on Khashoggi Murder

"Totally unprecedented and should be interpreted as nothing less than the Trump administration trying to silence the intelligence community," said one Senate staffer

Pictured during her confirmation before a Senate committee earlier this year, CIA Director Gina Haspel has reportedly been barred by the White House from briefing lawmakers about what the agency understands about the Saudi's murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. (Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

While President Donald Trump has repeatedly cast doubt on the CIA's internal, and still secret, determination concerning the brutal murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi nearly two months ago, it was reported on Tuesday that while members of the U.S. Senate will receive a briefing from the Trump adminstration on Wednesday, neither the director of the CIA Gina Haspel nor other intelligence officials will participate.

"Trump and John Bolton not only refuse to even listen to the Turkish tape about Khashoggi's murder, but they are also keeping CIA Director Gina Haspel away from Senate briefing because the CIA points the finger at the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman."
—Medea Benjamin, CodePink
The briefing to the entire Senate will be led by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary James Mattis and focus on the U.S.-Saudi relationship ahead of an expected vote in the afternoon that seeks to end the U.S. involvement in the Kingdom's brutal war on neighboring Yemen.

But as the Guardian reports, adminstrations officials "made it clear that the decision for Haspel not to appear in front of the committee came from the White House."

A contentious nominee to take over the agency in the first place—largely due to her own sordid history related to the agency's torture and killing of detainees—the absence of Haspel seemed to many like a glaring affront to the lawmakers who would receive the briefing.

"On a national security issue of such importance, it would be customary for a senior intelligence official to take part," the Guardian 's Julian Borger noted. "On this occasion, the absence of the intelligence community is all the more glaring, as Haspel travelled to Istanbul to hear audio tapes of Khashoggi's murder provided by Turkish intelligence, and then briefed Donald Trump."

It was a detail that others noted as well:

An unnamed Senate staffer who spoke to Borger said, "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."

Offering a possible taste of what the Senate can expect to receive in terms of useful information and insights from Trump's top officials, National Security Advisor John Bolton made a mockery of seriousness on Tuesday, when asked at a White House press briefing if he'd listened to the recording of the killing, by saying that it would not make sense for him to do so because, "I don't speak Arabic."

Watch:

Medea Benjamin, co-founder of the anti-war group CodePink, said the Trump administration's position is deeply troubling.

"Trump and John Bolton not only refuse to even listen to the Turkish tape about Khashoggi's murder, but they are also keeping Haspel away from the Senate briefing because the CIA points the finger at the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS)," Benjamin told Common Dreams via email.

"It's mind-boggling what lengths the administration is going through to shield MBS, but there's no way to put lipstick on this pig," she added. "The world now sees MBS for the evil dictator he is, and the Senate must now do the right thing by supporting SJR54—the resolution to end U.S. support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen."

With CodePink, Win Without War, Peace Action, and other groups urging constituents to call their Senators and demand they support the resolution, the vote could come as early as Wednesday afternoon.

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