Congress should work with Trump and not ‘cowboy’ on Saudi Arabia, says GOP senator


GOP Sen. John Kennedy (La.) wants Congress to work with President Trump instead of “cowboying this on our own” as lawmakers consider how to respond to allegations Saudi Arabia is responsible for the disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

“I don’t want to see Congress going out cowboying this on their own, I’d like to do it with the president,” Kennedy told reporters while discussing possible U.S. actions to punish the Saudi kingdom if officials ordered the killing of the U.S.-based journalist. Khashoggi disappeared earlier this month after entering the Saudi embassy in Turkey and is presumed dead.

“We can condemn their conduct – in this case Saudi Arabia – without blowing up the Middle East, and without destroying our ability to talk with them,” Kennedy asserted before listing several possible punishments.

“You could expel diplomats, you could do a U.N. resolution, you could curtail arms sales, you could do sanctions on individuals, I don’t know the appropriate conduct,” Kennedy said before emphasizing that the president and Congress must be united and actions based on “U.S. values.”

Since suspected Saudi involvement in Khashoggi’s Oct. 2nd disappearance, Republican and Democratic senators have called for sanctions on the Saudis and an end to U.S. arms sales. Additionally, some Republicans including Sens. Jeff Flake (Ariz.) and Marco Rubio (Fla.) say that Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin should cancel a trip to Riyadh next week.

Asked if Mnuchin should attend the Saudi-based investment conference, Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) said: “I think he should go if he wants to.”

Kennedy however, sided with Flake and Rubio.

“Until we can get all this worked out, I don’t think it’s appropriate that he go,” Kennedy said.

Another GOP senator has gone a step farther in his pledge to take action on Saudi Arabia.

But Kennedy refused to comment on Sen. Lindsey Graham’s (R-S.C.) Tuesday morning pledge not to do business with Saudi Arabia as long as Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman is in charge.

— Molly K. Hooper

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