- Several GOP officials on Tuesday offered scathing responses to President Donald Trump’s statement outlining his administration’s position on Saudi Arabia over the brutal killing of the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
- The president’s forceful defence of Saudi Arabia followed recent reports that the CIA had concluded with “high confidence” that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman directly ordered Khashoggi’s killing.
- The statement has been widely bashed by officials and groups across the political spectrum.
- “I’m pretty sure this statement is Saudi Arabia First, not America First,” Sen. Rand Paul wrote on Twitter, while Sen. Bob Corker tweeted, “I never thought I’d see the day a White House would moonlight as a public relations firm for the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia.”
- Saudi Arabia has continued to distance its crown prince from Khashoggi’s killing, but it may be too late.
Several GOP officials on Tuesday offered scathing responses to President Donald Trump’s statement that appeared to side with Saudi Arabia over the brutal killing of the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
Several of Trump’s top Republican allies, including Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, criticised the president’s forceful defence of Saudi Arabia in light of recent reports that the CIA had concluded with “high confidence” that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman directly ordered Khashoggi’s killing.
Trump on Tuesday released a lengthy statement in which he recycled unsubstantiated Saudi attacks on Khashoggi’s character and claimed it was possible the crown prince didn’t know about a plot to murder Khashoggi.
Paul, who emerged this summer as one of the president’s biggest allies on issues related to Russia, slammed Trump’s defence of Saudi Arabia.
“I’m pretty sure this statement is Saudi Arabia First, not America First. I’m also pretty sure John Bolton wrote it,” he said on Twitter, referring to Trump’s national security adviser.
He added: “The President indicates that Saudi Arabia is the lesser of two evils compared to Iran and so the US won’t punish Saudi Arabia for the brutal killing and dismemberment of a dissident journalist in their consulate. I disagree.”
Paul also pledged to push for legislation to stop planned US arms sales to Saudi Arabia, as well as the war in Yemen.
Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, who led a group of US officials urging sanctions against Saudis connected to Khashoggi’s disappearance and death, said Congress would “consider all of the tools at our disposal to respond.”
“I never thought I’d see the day a White House would moonlight as a public relations firm for the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia,”Corker tweeted, adding that he would seek a definitive answer on whether Prince Mohammed had a role in the killing.
Graham, who has transformed into an icon of the right, tweeted, “I firmly believe there will be strong bipartisan support for serious sanctions against Saudi Arabia, including appropriate members of the royal family, for this barbaric act which defied all civilized norms.”
“While Saudi Arabia is a strategic ally, the behaviour of the Crown Prince – in multiple ways – has shown disrespect for the relationship and made him, in my view, beyond toxic,” he added. “I fully realise 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.”
Trump has been widely bashed for siding with the Saudis
Trump was widely criticised for siding with Saudi Arabia over numerous US intelligence agencies and officials in their assessment of Khashoggi’s killing in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul on October 2.
Khashoggi’s editor at The Washington Post, Karen Attiah, said Trump’s statement represented a new low.
Former CIA Director John Brennan tweeted that Trump “excels in dishonesty” and called on members of Congress to declassify CIA findings on Khashoggi’s death.
Daniel Balson, an Amnesty International official, said the Trump administration’s handling of Khashoggi’s case could be sending a powerful message about killing journalists and critics without consequence.
And Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut, who sits on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, tweeted that “it’s now 100% clear the Saudis own our President.”
Saudi Arabia keeps trying to distance its crown prince, but it may be too late
On Tuesday, the Saudi foreign minister, Adel al-Jubeir, claimed that allegations linking the crown prince to Khashoggi’s killing were false.
“We in the kingdom know that such allegations about the crown prince have no basis in truth and we categorically reject them,” al-Jubeir was quoted as saying by the Saudi-owned Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper.
Several news outlets, including The Post, reported over the weekend that the CIA had determined that the crown prince ordered Khashoggi’s assassination. The CIA’s conclusion is reportedly based on several pieces of intelligence, including a call to Khashoggi from the Saudi ambassador to the US, Khalid bin Salman – Mohammed’s brother – and audio recordings of the killing that have circulated in global intelligence agencies.
A former CIA officer and intelligence analyst also accused the Trump administration of helping the crown prince cover up the killing.
Saudi Arabia has repeatedly and vehemently denied that the crown prince had any role in Khashoggi’s death, though its version of the events surrounding the killing has shifted several times over the past few weeks.