Donald Trump faulted for ‘weak’ Jamal Khashoggi response

November 25, 2018

Democrats and Republicans alike on Sunday rebuked President Trump over his reluctance to hold Saudi Arabia accountable in the murder of journalist and dissident Jamal Khashoggi.

“Look, the president is not being honest with the country about the murder of Jamal Khashoggi,” said Rep. Adam Schiff, California Democrat, on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “I think in part he feels by saying we don’t know or the world is a dangerous place, or everybody does it, he thinks it makes him look strong. It actually makes him look weak.”

Mr. Trump was ambiguous Thursday about assigning blame for Mr. Khashoggi’s murder last month at the Saudi Arabian consulate in Turkey, citing Saudi Arabia’s importance as an ally and that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salam has “vehemently” denied responsibility.

“The CIA points it both ways, and as I said, maybe he did, maybe he didn’t, but I will say very strongly that it is a very important ally,” Mr. Trump told reporters. “And if we go by a certain standard, we won’t be able to have allies with almost any country.”

Sen. Mike Lee, Utah Republican, said his disagreed with the president’s assessment, saying it was “inconsistent with the intelligence I’ve seen.”

“I don’t have access to everything the president sees, I’m not sure what he’s relying on,” Mr. Lee said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “The intelligence I’ve seen suggests that this was ordered by the Crown Prince.”

He and Sen. Bernie Sanders, Vermont Independent, have cosponsored a resolution in support of pulling funding from the Saudi-backed civil war in Yemen.

“I think we now have a chance to get a majority in the United States Senate,” said Mr. Sanders on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”

Sen. Joni Ernst, Iowa Republican, said the president at some point “needs to speak to the Saudis directly and say, ‘Enough is enough,’” while Sen. Angus King, Maine Independent, accused Mr. Trump of giving Saudi Arabia a pass.

On #CNNSOTU @SenJoniErnst tells @DanaBashCNN on Khashoggi: “At such a time when it becomes necessary, the President also needs to speak directly to the Saudis and say enough is enough.” https://t.co/5o3kIPRF22 State of the Union (@CNNSotu) November 25, 2018

“We do have to make these difficult decisions,” Mr. King said. “But so far what they are doing is giving a pass to this guy. And I think it gives a pass to dictators around the world. That’s the danger. It undermines our authority and the authority of our values across the planet.”

Sen. Ben Sasse, Nebraska Republican, called Mr. Trump’s comment “a weak statement,” arguing that the president could make the “realist case” for keeping the alliance with Saudi Arabia while still assigning blame for the murder.

“Making the realist case is a different thing than being so weak that we failed to tell the truth,” Mr. Sasse said on “Fox News Sunday.” “MBS contributed to murdering somebody abroad, and it is not strength to sort of mumble past that. Strength is telling the truth even when it’s hard.”

Mr. Schiff, the incoming chair of the House Intelligence Committee, said he planned to examine whether the president’s financial interests were having an impact on his foreign policy.

“We know, of course, he has openly bragged about how many millions he makes from Saudi Arabia,” Mr. Schiff said. “Is his personal financial interest driving U.S. policy in the Gulf? Is it driving us policy vis-a-vis the Russians? We don’t know, but it would be irresponsible not to find out.”

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