Graham threatens to abstain from voting until CIA briefs Senate on Khashoggi killing

Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamWhite House won't move forward with billions in foreign aid cuts GOP group calls on Republican senators to stand up to McConnell on election security in new ads Cindy McCain says no one in Republican Party carries 'voice of reason' after husband's death MORE (R-S.C.) on Wednesday threatened to withhold any “key vote” until the CIA briefs the Senate on its assessment of whether Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the killing of U.S.-based journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

“Anything that you need me for to get out of town, I ain’t doing it until we hear from the CIA,” Graham told reporters after a briefing from Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoThe Hill's Campaign Report: Democratic field begins to shrink ahead of critical stretch Putin orders response to US missile test The Hill's Morning Report: How will Trump be received at G-7? MORE and Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisOnly Donald Trump has a policy for Afghanistan New Pentagon report blames Trump troop withdrawal for ISIS surge in Iraq and Syria Mattis returns to board of General Dynamics MORE on U.S.-Saudi relations.


Mattis and Pompeo focused their efforts on trying to persuade senators to oppose a resolution coming up for a first vote Wednesday afternoon that would end U.S. military support for the Saudi-led coalition's military operations in Yemen in the wake of Khashoggi's death inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul last month.

Senators were hoping the briefing would involve CIA Director Gina Haspel, who previously traveled to Turkey to review its evidence in the Khashoggi case, including an audio recording of his dying moments. The CIA has reportedly concluded that Crown Prince Mohammed ordered the murder of Khashoggi, a Washington Post contributor.

Sen. Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinSenate Democrats push Trump to permanently shutter migrant detention facility House panel investigating decision to resume federal executions To combat domestic terrorism, Congress must equip law enforcement to fight rise in white supremacist attacks MORE (D-Ill.) said Wednesday that Pompeo and Mattis confirmed the White House prevented Haspel from attending the Senate briefing.

In a statement later Wednesday, the CIA denied Haspel was blocked from attending.

“While Director Haspel did not attend today’s Yemen policy briefing, the agency has already briefed the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and congressional leadership on the totality of the compartmented, classified intelligence and will continue to provide updates on this important matter to policymakers and Congress," CIA Press Secretary Timothy Barrett said. "The notion that anyone told Director Haspel not to attend today's briefing is false.” 

President TrumpDonald John TrumpThe Hill's Campaign Report: Democratic field begins to shrink ahead of critical stretch To ward off recession, Trump should keep his mouth and smartphone shut Trump: 'Who is our bigger enemy,' Fed chief or Chinese leader? MORE has pushed back on reports of the CIA’s assessment, and Pompeo said Wednesday there is no “direct reporting” from U.S. intelligence connecting Crown Prince Mohammed to the kill order.

But senators remain skeptical that the operation could have been carried out without the approval of the crown prince, who is the kingdom’s day-to-day leader.

Graham called Wednesday’s briefing “inadequate” because it lacked a representative from the CIA.

“I’m not going to blow past this,” he said. “So if that briefing is not given soon, it’s going to be hard for me to vote for any spending bill.”

Asked if he was only threatening to withhold votes on the spending bill, Graham said he was “talking about any key vote.”

Further asked if he’s made his stance clear to Trump, Graham said he “just did.”

Congress has until Dec. 7 to pass a spending bill covering several government agencies and to avert a partial government shutdown.

One of the outstanding spending bills is for the State Department, and Graham chairs the Appropriations subcommittee responsible for that measure.

Negotiations on a spending bill have already been complicated by Trump’s insistence that it include funding for his proposed wall on the southern border.

The Senate has also teed up confirmation votes on several federal judges, a key priority for Republicans. But that effort, too, has been complicated by Sen. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeAnti-gun violence organization endorses Kelly's Senate bid Arpaio considering running for former sheriff job after Trump pardon Overnight Energy: Warren edges past Sanders in poll of climate-focused voters | Carbon tax shows new signs of life | Greens fuming at Trump plans for development at Bears Ears monument MORE (R-Ariz.), who is withholding his votes until the Senate considers his bill to protect the special counsel's investigation into Russian election interference.

Updated at 3:41 p.m.