Rand Paul blasts Saudi Arabia at rally with Trump Jr.

Rand Paul blasts Saudi Arabia at rally with Trump Jr.
© Alexander Bolton/The Hill

MISSOULA, Mont. — Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulMcConnell moves to force vote on Trump's counterterrorism nominee Overnight Defense: Senate bucks Trump with Yemen war vote, resolution calling crown prince 'responsible' for Khashoggi killing | House briefing on Saudi Arabia fails to move needle | Inhofe casts doubt on Space Force Lame-duck Congress should pass First Step Act MORE (R-Ky.) slammed Saudi Arabia as a sponsor of terrorism at a Montana rally with Donald Trump Jr.Donald (Don) John TrumpTrump charity agrees to dissolve amid allegations of a 'shocking pattern of illegality' Chris Matthews: Trump Jr., Ivanka ‘stand as the next dominoes to fall’ Report accuses US tech giants of impeding Senate's Russia probe MORE Saturday, another sign of pressure from Congress that President TrumpDonald John TrumpREAD: Transcript of James Comey's interview with House Republicans Klobuchar on 2020: ‘I do think you want voices from the Midwest’ Israel boycott fight roils Democrats in year-end spending debate MORE needs to get tougher with the longtime U.S. ally. 

Paul, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said the nation can no longer overlook the bad behavior of Saudi Arabia, the world’s top buyer of U.S. armaments and a key player in setting global oil prices. 

“We have to think through this idea that everything is going to be blindly for Saudi Arabia, they’re involved in a war in Yemen where tens of thousands of civilians are dying,” Paul said.

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Paul reminded the audience, many of them Trump supporters, that 15 of the 19 hijackers behind the 9/11 attacks were Saudis. 

“Anyone remember who attacked us on 9/11?” he said. “Anybody heard of a madrassa? They have 20,000 madrassas in Pakistan funded by the Saudis that teach hatred of Christians, hatred of Jews, hatred of Hindus, throughout the world."

“Why do we have worldwide terrorism? The Saudis fund it,” he added. 

Paul made his comments at an event for Senate Republican candidate Matt Rosendale.

Paul described Rosendale as someone who would be an ally in Washington in the effort to impose more congressional oversight on the president’s ability to conduct military operations. 

“What I want are allies that will come to Washington and say this: the Constitution demands that the people through their representatives vote on when we got to war,” he said.  

Trump has had a more muscular view of the president’s power to use military force. 

Trump Jr., the president’s eldest son, has extolled his dad at multiple rallies in Montana for launching Tomahawk cruise missiles against Syria in April to retaliate against Syrian President Bashar Assad’s use of chemical weapons. 

Trump Jr. made no reference to Saudi Arabia when he spoke shortly after Paul. 

The White House has made a strong relationship with Saudi Arabia a pillar of its Middle Eastern policy, and see the oil-rich nation as a strategic counterweight to Iran. 

But Trump is under increasing pressure from Republican senators to re-evaluate American allegiance to Saudi Arabia after U.S.-based journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s murder at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. 

Republican and Democratic members of the Foreign Relations Committee sent a letter to Trump on Oct. 10 triggering the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act, which requires the administration to investigate Khashoggi’s death and report back to Congress within 120 days. 

If the probe finds that senior Saudi officials are guilty of grossly violating Khashoggi’s human rights, it would pave the way for the administration to implement sanctions against responsible individuals. 

Paul, who did not sign the letter, on Saturday dismissed such possible sanctions as a slap on the wrist. 

“I think sanctions are a way of pretending to do something. If you sanction the 15 thugs that the crown prince sent to [the consulate in Istanbul,] you’re sanctioning 15 thugs and they’ll just get 15 more thugs,” he said.

“Saudi Arabia will see that as a way of pretending. It’s a way of acting tough without being tough,” he said. 

Paul is pushing for a Senate vote to block an arms sale to Saudi Arabia that Trump values at $110 billion. 

“Cutting off the arms sales will make them wake up,” Paul told The Hill before he went on stage at the rally. “In fact, their air force would be grounded in two or three months if they didn’t have spare parts."

“Saudi Arabia has done a lot of bad things. They spent $100 billion on radical Islam,” he said. 

Trump defended the arms deal earlier this month as a major boost to the U.S. economy and argued that Russia or China would rush to sell Saudi Arabia weapons if Congress blocked the transaction. 

“That’s a tremendous order for our companies. It’s a tremendous order, really from an economic development standpoint,” Trump said in the Oval Office on Oct. 13. 

“In terms of the order of $110 billion — think of that, $110 billion — all they’re going to do is give it to other countries and I think that would be very foolish of our country,” he argued.