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White House Declines to Meet Congress’ Deadline on Khashoggi Killing - Should Congress Force Action?

Should Congress punish Saudi Arabia?

by Countable | 2.8.19

Update - February 13, 2019:

  • Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are criticizing the Trump administration for its failure to identify and punish those behind the death and disappearance of Saudi Journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
  • The White House missed a Friday deadline to submit a report to Congress determining who was responsible for the brutal killing of Khashoggi.
“The President maintains his discretion to decline to act on congressional committee requests when appropriate,” a senior administration official said in a statement. “The U.S. Government will continue to consult with Congress and work to hold accountable those responsible for Jamal Khashoggi’s killing.”
  • Lawmakers said that's not good enough.
  • “It’s not a good way to start the new Congress in its relationship with the Foreign Relations Committee,” said Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), a member of the committee. “It violates the law. And the law is clear about those timelines. I’m urging them and I expect them to comply with the law.”
  • "This amounts to the Trump Administration aiding in the cover up of a murder," Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) said in a statement on Sunday. "America should never descend to this level of moral bankruptcy."
  • On Friday, the day of the Magnitsky deadline, the Saudi Foreign Ministry tweeted what some read as a threat: “Our leadership is a red line. We warn against any attempt to link Khashoggi’s crime to our leadership.”

Countable's original story appears below.


What’s the story?

  • Friday marks the deadline for President Donald Trump to identify and punish those behind the death and disappearance of Saudi Journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
  • In October, a bipartisan group of senators imposed a 120-day deadline for Trump to submit a report to Congress determining who was responsible for the brutal killing of Khashoggi.
  • United Nations report on Thursday described Khashoggi as "the victim of a brutal and premeditated killing, planned and perpetrated by officials of the State of Saudi Arabia."
  • Mounting evidence suggests that the Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is behind the murder, with the New York Times reporting Thursday that MBS told a top aide in 2017 that he would use “a bullet” on the journalist. MBS continues to have the support of Trump, who has said he’s reluctant to disturb the weapons sales agreement with the kingdom.
  • Khashoggi, a Saudi dissident and Washington Post columnist, was killed in October while visiting the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey.

Saudi Arabia Accountability and Yemen Act

  • Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle introduced legislation Thursday that would block U.S. arms sales to Saudi Arabia and impose mandatory sanctions on those found responsible for Khashoggi’s death.
  • Sen. Bob Menendez (NJ), the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said when announcing the bill Thursday:
“Seeing as the Trump administration has no intention of insisting on full accountability for Mr. Khashoggi’s murderers, it is time for Congress to step in and impose real consequences to fundamentally reexamine our relationship with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and with the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen.”
  • Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), a close-ally of Trump, has none-the-less been critical of the administration’s response to the killing.
  • “It is not in our national security interests to look the other way when it comes to the brutal murder of Mr. Jamal Khashoggi," said Graham, one of the GOP senators who authored the bill.
  • “While Saudi Arabia is a strategic ally, the behavior of the crown prince – in multiple ways – has shown disrespect for the relationship and made him, in my view, beyond toxic,” Graham said in a statement.
“I fully realize we have to deal with bad actors and imperfect situations on the international stage. However, when we lose our moral voice, we lose our strongest asset.”

What do you think?

Do you support the Saudi Arabia Accountability and Yemen Act? Or are you concerned about destabilizing the status-quo with the Saudis? Take action and tell your reps, then share your thoughts below.

—Josh Herman

(Photo Credit: Time Magazine)

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