Angry Senators Say Trump Administration Is Stonewalling Amid Saudi Crisis

The Latest: Pompeo to defend role in Yemen before senators

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary James Mattis issued their most definitive dismissals yet of the CIA's reported assessment that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi.

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

Pompeo called the Senate resolution "poorly timed" and stressed that there is "no direct reporting" connecting the crown prince to Khashoggi's murder.

Watch Mattis' remarks and the "Daily Briefing" interview above. "I left the briefing unsatisfied", he said, calling it a "significant mistake" that CIA Director Gina Haspel did not attend the briefing. With weapons supplied by the U.S., Saudi Arabia is capable of much greater damage. Until there is a congressional authorization, all US forces supporting the coalition's war should be withdrawn. A vote could happen later Wednesday but was not certain.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell voted against moving ahead with the resolution but said a day earlier that "some kind of response" was needed from the United States for the Saudis' role in Khashoggi's death. Western intelligence agencies, including the CIA, have reportedly concluded that Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman ordered the murder, while President Trump and other administration officials have cast doubt on that conclusion.

"I'm all for realpolitik", Flake said of Pompeo's objection that a withdrawal from Yemen would encourage Iranian misbehavior. "We're discussing what the appropriate response would be". Senators voted 63-37 to advance the measure.

The South Carolina Republican said the list could include nominations and the end-of-year spending package.

"Our security interests can not be dismissed", Mattis said, even as Washington seeks accountability for Khashoggi's murder, a crime which "our country does not condone".

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"We're right on the cusp of that", Pompeo said.

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

Pompeo's remarks echoed points he made in an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal, in which he characterised the reaction to the October murder of Washington Post contributor Jamal Khashoggi as heightening "Capitol Hill caterwauling and media pile on".

The conflict between Saudi-led military coalition and Houthi rebels has killed thousands of people and pushed millions more Yemenis to the brink of starvation. Mike Lee, R-Utah, a co-sponsor of the resolution to end support for the war. Earlier this month, the USA ended refueling support for the military campaign.

An Argentine federal judge reviewing a complaint against the Saudi crown prince has asked the Argentine Foreign Ministry to seek information from Yemen, Turkey and the International Criminal Court, the judge's office said.

Haspel's absence at the briefing on Wednesday morning was described as uncommon, with a US Senate staffer telling The Guardian that the decision to exclude a US intelligence official "is totally unprecedented and should be interpreted as nothing less than the Trump administration trying to silence the intelligence community".

Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, one of 10 Democrats who declined to join the earlier effort against the Saudis, said Tuesday he was reconsidering his position.

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