CIA Director Gina Haspel is to brief a key group of senators behind closed doors on the details of the agency’s assessment that the Saudi crown prince likely ordered the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
The briefing on Tuesday comes just days before the Senate is expected to begin debating a resolution to withdraw support for the Saudi military campaign in Yemen.
The meeting will be just for Senate leaders and the heads of national security committees seen as having a national security interest in Saudi policy regarding Yemen and the intelligence surrounding Khashoggi’s killing, according to multiple people familiar with plans.
Bipartisan leaders from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the Senate Armed Services Committee, the Senate Intelligence, and the Appropriations subcommittees that fund the State and Defence departments are expected to be included.
Republican and Democratic senators alike have been demanding to hear from Ms Haspel, who was noticeably absent last week from a similar, all-senators briefing with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defence Secretary Jim Mattis.
Senators complained that the Trump administration was depriving Congress of key information about the killing of Khashoggi by refusing to order Ms Haspel to go to the Hill and explain the CIA’s assessment that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman likely was responsible.
Some senators blamed the White House for barring Ms Haspel’s participation, prompting CIA spokesman Timothy Barrett to declare that nobody had told Ms Haspel not to appear.
But the furore was so serious that even Senator Lindsey Graham, a close confidante of President Trump’s, said he would refuse to support “any key vote” until Ms Haspel came to the Hill to speak to lawmakers.
As the senior Republican on the appropriations panel for the State and foreign operations, Ms Graham will be part of the briefing.
Last week, the Senate took the historic step of voting to take up a resolution, spearheaded by Senators Bernie Sanders and Mike Lee to end American support for the Saudi-led coalition fighting Houthi rebels in Yemen, where humanitarian conditions have reached a crisis level.
For some of the 14 Republicans who supported the opening procedural step last week, the vote was intended as a warning to Mr Trump, to inspire him to start openly condemning Crown Prince bin Salman or withholding military support. Ms Haspel’s briefing may placate some of those senators.
But it is not expected to deter Senate Democrats or the handful of Republicans who believe Saudi Arabia should be rebuked from supporting the Yemen resolution past its next procedural step, a vote that expected to take place in the next few days.