RNA - Maine Independent Senator Angus King said on CBS’s “Face the Nation” on Sunday that a recent statement by Trump in support of Mohammed “gives a pass to dictators around the world.”
In that statement, Trump sought to argue that the US had economic and national security interests in supporting Saudi leadership despite the widespread belief that Mohammed ordered the killing of dissident Jamal Khashoggi inside the Saudi consulate in the Turkish city of Istanbul on October 2.
“Face the Nation” host Margaret Brennan sought to obtain Senator King’s opinion on whether a decision “to trade off between US national security interests and human rights concerns when it comes to Saudi Arabia” was easy.
The senator said Trump’s statement “made it sound easy!”
“The statement that came from the White House last week was amazing because it made it sound easy. It basically said, ‘We got an important relationship with Saudi Arabia; therefore, we’re going to turn a blind eye to this.’ It’s not that easy,” King said.
“We do have to make these difficult decisions, but so far what they’re doing is giving a pass to this guy, and I think it gives a pass to dictators around the world,” he added. “That’s the danger. It undermines our values and the authority of our values across the planet.”
The CIA has reportedly concluded that the crown prince ordered the killing.
“You don’t have to be the CIA to put things together and say, ‘how could this have happened without the prince being involved?’ He’s in total control,” King said.
.@SenAngusKing on the @realDonaldTrumpadministration’s response to Saudi Arabia in the aftermath of Jamal Khashoggi’s death: So far what they’re doing is giving a pass to this guy, and I think it gives a pass to dictators around the world. pic.twitter.com/amJcpD54yH
— Face The Nation (@FaceTheNation) November 25, 2018
Utah Republican Senator Mike Lee has said he has seen intelligence reports suggesting bin Salman ordered Khashoggi’s assassination at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul last month.
“I disagree with the president’s assessment. It’s inconsistent with the intelligence I’ve seen," Lee said on NBC. "Intelligence I’ve seen suggests that this was ordered by the crown prince."
He further called for an end to US support for the monarchy’s bombardment of impoverished Yemen.
"This unauthorized, unconstitutional war from our standpoint is not something we ought to be fighting," he said. "This is not an ally that deserves this kind of military intervention, especially because there’s been no connection between the safety of the American people and our involvement in this war.”
EXCLUSIVE: On Jamal Khashoggi’s killing, Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) tells Chuck Todd that “the intelligence I’ve seen suggests that this was ordered by the Crown Prince” #MTP@SenMikeLee: “I disagree with the president’s assessment” pic.twitter.com/kBJ62VfwWP
— Meet the Press (@MeetThePress) November 25, 2018
California Representative Adam Schiff also said he had been briefed by the Central Intelligence Agency about the Saudi plot, calling Trump “dishonest.”
"I have been briefed by the CIA, and while I cannot discuss the contents of the briefing in any way, I can say that I think the president is being dishonest with the American people," Schiff said on CNN. "I don't know why. It's certainly not atypical… Frankly, the president has been dishonest with the country about a great many things. But I think what is most important here is we need to speak up for democratic values."
Trump has thrown his support behind the monarchy and bin Salman, citing economic relations with Riyadh and particularly his $110 billion deal with the kingdom.
"It causes our standing in the world to plummet. It telegraphs to despots around the world they can murder people with impunity, and that this president will have their back," Schiff said. "As long as they praise him, as long as they do business with him potentially, and that cannot be the guiding principle behind our foreign policy."
“It causes our standing in the world to plummet, it telegraphs to despots around the world that they can murder people then impunity, and that this President will have their back as long as they praise him,” Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff says #CNNSOTUpic.twitter.com/QX8M1d4WK7
— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) November 25, 2018
Nebraska Republican Senator Ben Sasse also slammed Trump for his unconditional Trump for Saudi on the pretext of trade.
"If you want to make a hardcore, realist case that there are places and times when ours and Saudis' interests temporarily align, and sometimes you have to work with bad guys in the world, there’s a coherent, realist case to be made there," Sasse said on Fox News. "Making a realist case is a different thing than being so weak that we fail to tell the truth… (The crown prince) 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."
Sasse is among senators briefed by the intelligence authorities on the matter.
"The report is really clear, and the president should be stronger," Sasse said. "That was a weak statement."
But Iowa Republican Senator Joni Ernst declined to criticize Trump over his response.
"I do think we need to look into [the Khashoggi killing] further… And we need to understand where the investigations are leading us. And I'm anxious to hear from a number of our intelligence agencies on this,” she said. "Now, Saudi Arabia is a great strategic partner for us… It is an important country when it when it comes to the Middle Eastern region. We know that they are great projection platform for us. We understand that. However, we also are a very strong nation when it comes to human rights when it comes to the rule of law. And if there are indicators that the prince was involved in this murder then we need to absolutely consider further action."
According to Press TV, Trump was meanwhile hailing his good ties with Riyadh and the low oil price.
“So great that oil prices are falling (thank you President T),” the president wrote. “Add that, which is like a big Tax Cut, to our other good Economic news. Inflation down (are you listening Fed)!”
Saudi Arabia has acknowledged the murder, yet left many questions unanswered.
Turkish intelligence intercepts reportedly show that Khashoggi, who was last seen entering the Saudi mission in Istanbul on October 2, was murdered on a direct order from Saudi de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman.