Top Trump administration officials defend close Saudi ties

Posted December 02, 2018

By a bipartisan 63-37 vote, the Senate opted to move forward with legislation calling for an end to US involvement in the Saudi-led war in Yemen. Mike Lee of Utah and Independent Sen. It would end United States involvement and military assistance to the war in Yemen, where more than 85,000 children have died because of a war-induced famine in the country and millions are on the brink of starvation. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., said after leaving the briefing.

Several senators said they were angry about the absence of CIA Director Gina Haspel from the pre-vote briefing.

Under a headline "We don't condone Jamal Khashoggi's murder".

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said he would insist on a briefing from Haspel, even threatening to withhold his vote on key measures if that didn't happen.

Saudi Arabia has said that 21 people are in custody, with death penalties sought against five men.

In Yemen, he added that Iran's backed Houthis "have occupied Saudi territory, seized a major port, and, with Iranian help, improved their ballistic-missile targeting so that they can shoot at Riyadh's worldwide airport... I believe there is a chance to step up efforts early in December but we are not there yet", he said.

New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez, the top Democrat on the Foreign Relations panel, said he would switch his vote and support the resolution. 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".

"It's outrageous that the Senate can be stonewalled from hearing from the Central Intelligence Agency director", Menendez said. Yesterday, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said the trilateral meeting with PM Modi will be held towards the end of the Trump-Abe talks which is part of the series of the meetings the US President will hold during the two days.

The administration is also downplaying any connection between bin Salman and Khashoggi's murder, a connection that the intelligence community, with "high confidence", has concluded exists.

Pompeo also urged senators to vote against the Yemen resolution, claiming the timing is bad because they are "on the cusp" of all parties coming to the table for a potential cease-fire.

Echoing Trump's public comments on the killing, Pompeo said after Wednesday's briefing with senators that there was "no direct reporting" connecting the crown prince to the murder, and Mattis said there was "no smoking gun" making the connection.

The Senate will continue debate on the measure next week.