Home/Daniel Larison/A Farcical Senate ‘Briefing’ on Yemen

A Farcical Senate ‘Briefing’ on Yemen

U.S. Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo, President Trump and National Security Advisor John Bolton at the NATO Foreign Ministerial in Brussels, Belgium on July 12, 2018. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]

Mattis and Pompeo go to Capitol Hill to brief the full Senate on Yemen and the Khashoggi murder today, but the White House has prevented any intelligence officials from joining them:

Two members of President Trump’s Cabinet will brief the Senate on Wednesday about Saudi Arabia, the extent of its responsibility in the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi and the humanitarian crisis in Yemen, a high-stakes meeting preceding lawmakers’ anticipated vote on whether to dramatically scale back U.S. military support for the kingdom.

Many senators have predicted the closed-door meeting with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis will be unsatisfactory, as the administration had not agreed to send an intelligence official to speak about the CIA assessment that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered Khashoggi’s killing.

The president doesn’t want the Senate to vote for S.J.Res. 54, and so he is sending Mattis and Pompeo to make their usual false and misleading claims about the war on Yemen. The sole purpose of the briefing appears to be to quash opposition to Trump administration policy instead of giving the senators an accurate assessment of the war and the Saudi government’s responsibility for its many crimes. If the administration wanted to brief the Senate properly, they would be sending an intelligence official along with the Secretaries of State and Defense, but it seems clear that they fear that an intelligence official would tell the senators things that contradict the president’s mindless, unconditional support for Saudi Arabia. The attempt to keep information from the senators is so obvious that it seems sure to backfire on the administration, and it makes it that much more likely that there will be enough votes to pass S.J.Res. 54 when it comes up for a vote later this week.

The Guardian previously reported on the story:

“There is always an intel person there for a briefing like this,” a Senate staffer told the Guardian. “It is totally unprecedented and should be interpreted as nothing less than the Trump administration trying to silence the intelligence community.”

Bruce Riedel, a veteran CIA official and an expert on the US-Saudi relationship at the Brookings Institution, said: “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,” Riedel added.

The president’s determination to serve as both mouthpiece and lackey for the crown prince is impossible to miss, and today’s Senate briefing promises to be every bit as much of a farcical propaganda exercise as Secretary Pompeo’s mendacious op-ed in The Wall Street Journal.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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