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The Latest: Senators move to act against Saudi Arabia

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo shake hands with Kosovo President Hashim Thaci at the Department of State on Monday, Nov. 26, 2018, in Washington. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Latest on the U.S. response to the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi (all times local):

4:35 p.m.

Senators are sending a strong signal that they want to punish Saudi Arabia for its role in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, voting to move forward with legislation that would end U.S. involvement with a Saudi-led war in Yemen.

The 63-37 vote was to consider a bipartisan resolution to halt U.S. support for the war, a rebuke to Saudi Arabia and President Donald Trump’s administration, which had issued a veto threat. The procedural vote sets up the beginning of a floor debate on the resolution next week.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of Defense James Mattis visited Capitol Hill Wednesday morning to lobby against the resolution. Emerging from the briefing, Pompeo said the vote would be “poorly timed” as diplomatic efforts to end the conflict are underway.

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3:05 p.m.

The CIA is denying that Director Gina Haspel was instructed not to attend a classified briefing with senators dealing with Yemen and the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Lawmakers from both parties are expressing frustration over Haspel’s absence from the meeting. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis attended.

CIA press secretary Timothy Barrett says, “The notion that anyone told Director Haspel not to attend today’s briefing is false.”

He says the agency has briefed the Senate intelligence committee and congressional leadership on the “totality” of classified information on the matter and would continue to keep Congress updated.

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina has threatened to oppose key legislation until the Senate is briefed by the CIA.

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2:50 p.m.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis says there’s “no smoking gun” connecting the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi (jah-MAHL’ khahr-SHOHK’-jee) to the Saudi crown prince.

Mattis tells reporters that he went over intelligence reports and read translations of tapes twice, and that none of it directly ties the killing to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Mattis spoke after he and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (pahm-PAY’-oh) briefed senators on the U.S. response to Khashoggi’s killing.

Mattis says the meeting included exhaustive discussions and that lawmakers expressed frustration with U.S. support to Saudi Arabia.

Lawmakers have called for the U.S. to take a tougher stand against Saudi Arabia as a result of the killing. Mattis and Pompeo urged senators to support the U.S. involvement in the war in Yemen, including assistance to Saudi Arabia.

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2:25 p.m.

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina is threatening to oppose key legislation until the Senate is briefed by the CIA on the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Senators were briefed on Khashoggi’s death Wednesday by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of Defense James Mattis. But Graham said the briefing was “inadequate” without the CIA speaking directly about the intelligence it has on Saudi Arabia’s involvement in the killing.

Graham said he’s willing to hold up the legislative agenda, including legislation to fund the government, until he hears from the agency.

He told reporters, “Anything that you need me for to get out of town, I ain’t doing it until we hear from the CIA.”

Asked whether he had communicated that to President Donald Trump, Graham answered: “I just did.”

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2:15 p.m.

Support is growing in the Senate for a resolution aimed at limiting U.S. involvement in the war in Yemen.

The resolution needs a simple majority to advance in a vote scheduled for Wednesday afternoon. The Trump administration has threated to veto it if it passes Congress.

Lawmakers are frustrated with the Trump administration’s response to the killing of columnist Jamal Khashoggi and say the administration has not done enough to punish Saudi Arabia for its involvement. Several senators who opposed the Yemen resolution in an earlier vote now support it.

Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey is among those now in favor. He says “it’s time to send Saudi Arabia a message both on its violation of human rights and the incredible humanitarian catastrophe it’s creating.”

Democratic Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware also says he now plans to vote yes.

The U.S. is providing support to a Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen.

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1:20 p.m.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says there’s no intelligence connecting the order to murder Saudi writer Jamal Khashoggi to the Saudi crown prince.

Pompeo says “I do believe I’ve read every piece of intelligence” that came in “and there is no direct reporting connecting the crown prince to the order to murder Jamal Khashoggi.”

Pompeo spoke after he and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis briefed senators behind closed doors Wednesday on the U.S. response to the Khashoggi killing.

Pompeo urged senators to continue to support U.S. involvement in the war in Yemen and maintain strong ties to Saudi Arabia, a longtime U.S. ally.

U.S. intelligence agencies have made the assessment that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman would have at least known about the plot to kill Khashoggi. This led some lawmakers to call for the U.S. to take a tougher stand against Saudi Arabia.

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12:50 p.m.

Senators are expressing disappointment that officials from the intelligence community were not present at a closed-door briefing over the U.S. response to the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois said the White House made the decision that CIA Director Gina Haspel would not appear at Wednesday’s briefing alongside the secretaries of state and defense.

Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey accused the Trump administration of attempting to “stonewall” the Senate and called the absence of an intelligence official “outrageous.”

Sen. Bob Corker, who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said he was disappointed Haspel was not present at the briefing, but declined further comment.

U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded that the Saudi crown prince must have at least known about a plot to kill Khashoggi. President Donald Trump has equivocated over who is to blame.

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11:50 a.m.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis says U.S. involvement in the Yemen conflict is central to American security interests.

In prepared marks he’s expected to deliver to members of the Senate on Wednesday, Mattis makes a strong defense of the U.S. role in Yemen and continued close partnership with Saudi Arabia.

Many in Congress are calling for the U.S. to take a tougher stance with the key Gulf ally over the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded that the Saudi crown prince must have at least known about a plot.

Mattis says the U.S. is “seldom free to work with unblemished partners” and warns that ending U.S. involvement in the conflict would “be misguided on the eve of the promising initial negotiations.”

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11:35 a.m.

President Donald Trump’s administration is threatening to veto a Senate resolution that would halt U.S. involvement in the Saudi-led war in Yemen.

The White House is issuing the veto threat as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (pahm-PAY’-oh) and Defense Secretary James Mattis are on Capitol Hill briefing senators who are increasingly uneasy with the U.S. response to Saudi Arabia after the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi (jah-MAHL’ khahr-SHOHK’-jee).

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says “some kind of response” is needed for the Saudis’ role in the gruesome death in Turkey.

The Senate is considering a vote on the resolution as soon as Wednesday. The White House says the resolution would “harm bilateral relationships in the region and negatively impact the ability of the United States to prevent the spread of violent extremist organizations.”

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10:50 a.m.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (pahm-PAY’-oh) is defending the U.S. role in Yemen in excerpts of prepared remarks he’s expected to deliver to members of the Senate.

Pompeo says U.S. involvement in the conflict is central to the Trump administration’s broader goal of containing Iranian influence in the Middle East.

A Saudi-led coalition is fighting Houthi rebels in Yemen. In remarks prepared for Wednesday, Pompeo says, “The first mission is to assist the Saudis and the Emiratis in their fight against Iranian-backed Houthi fighters. This conflict isn’t optional for Saudi Arabia, and abandoning it puts American interests at risk.”

Senators are set to question top Trump administration officials at a closed-door briefing about the U.S. response to Saudi Arabia over the killing of Washington Post contributor Jamal Khashoggi (jah-MAHL’ khahr-SHOHK’-jee).

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12:10 a.m.

Senators are set to question top Trump administration officials at a closed-door briefing about the U.S. response to Saudi Arabia over the killing of Washington Post contributor Jamal Khashoggi.

The briefing could determine how far Congress goes in punishing the longtime U.S. ally in the Mideast.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says “some kind of response” is needed from the United States for the Saudis’ role in the gruesome death. President Donald Trump has equivocated over who is to blame.

Much will depend on what senators hear from Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman must have at least known about the plan to kill Khashoggi last month at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul.

Copyright © 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.



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