Virginia Dem rips administration on Khashoggi

Virginia Dem rips administration on Khashoggi
© Greg Nash

The Democrat representing the Saudi journalist who went missing in Turkey last week urged President TrumpDonald John TrumpThe Hill's Morning Report - White House, Congress: Urgency of now around budget GOP presses Trump to make a deal on spending Democrats wary of handing Trump a win on infrastructure MORE and State Secretary Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoThe Hill's Morning Report - White House, Congress: Urgency of now around budget Tensions swirl around Iran as administration to brief Congress Overnight Defense: Iran tensions swirl as officials prepare to brief Congress | Trump threatens war would be 'end of Iran' | Graham tells Trump to 'stand firm' | Budget talks begin MORE to get tougher on Riyadh amid the ongoing search for Jamal Khashoggi.

Rep. Gerry ConnollyGerald (Gerry) Edward ConnollyWe can curb potential pandemics by investing in prevention tactics Mueller mystery: Will he ever testify to Congress? Dem leaders feel squeeze on Trump strategy MORE (D), who represents the northern Virginia district where Khashoggi was living in exile, said the administration’s push for Saudi officials to investigate an alleged crime they’re accused of masterminding risks letting the fox guard the henhouse.

“If the Saudis are responsible for the crime, you don’t ask the criminal to investigate himself,” Connolly said during a press conference outside The Washington Post offices in D.C., where Khashoggi wrote as a columnist.

“There has to be an independent international investigation so we can get to the bottom of what happened,” he added. “We will not rest until that happens.”

Khashoggi, a frequent critic of the Saudi government, disappeared Oct. 2 in Istanbul after entering a Saudi consulate there to obtain documents for his upcoming wedding.

Turkish authorities say they have evidence that Khashoggi was killed, and perhaps dismembered, inside the compound by Saudi nationals acting on orders from top government officials, according to multiple reports.

Saudi leaders deny any crime occurred, contending Khashoggi left the consulate unharmed but not providing evidence of his exit.

Pompeo issued a short statement on Monday, citing “conflicting reports on the safety and whereabouts” of Khashoggi and urging Saudi leaders to cooperate in an investigation.

Several senior administration officials — including Pompeo, National security adviser John Bolton and Jared KushnerJared Corey KushnerOn The Money: Judge upholds House subpoena for Trump financial records | Trump vows to appeal ruling by 'Obama-appointed judge' | Canada, Mexico lift retaliatory tariffs on US | IRS audit rate falls The Hill's 12:30 Report: Amash under fire after impeachment tweets Ann Coulter: Four myths the media and politicians tell you about our border crisis MORE, senior advisor to the president — all spoke directly with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman about the disappearance Tuesday, according to the White House.

That same day, State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert clarified that the administration requested that Saudi officials “conduct a thorough and transparent investigation.”

The communications have done nothing to satisfy Khashoggi’s supporters, who want the administration to get more aggressive with Saudi leaders. Connolly characterized Pompeo’s statement as “the weakest of responses.”

“The reports surrounding Jamal’s disappearance, if corroborated, would represent a new low on the part of a sovereign state in another sovereign state turning a consulate into an abattoir,” he said. “Sovereign territories in another country have diplomatic immunity so that business can be undertaken, not that crime can be committed.

“If the Saudis are complicit in this alleged crime,” he continued, “they’re the wrong party to investigate.”

Trump on Wednesday addressed Khashoggi’s disappearance, saying he’s spoken multiple times with top Saudi officials about “a very bad situation.”

"We cannot let this happen — to reporters, to anybody," he said from the Oval Office.

https://thehill.com/homenews/administration/410781-trump-says-hes-spoken...

The escalating saga is testing the close ties between the United States and Saudi Arabia, as numerous lawmakers in both parties — many already up in arms over Saudi military operations in Yemen — amplify their criticisms of the country’s leaders amid the search for Khashoggi.

Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulGOP presses Trump to make a deal on spending House Freedom Caucus votes to condemn Amash's impeachment comments Bolton emerges as flashpoint in GOP debate on Iran MORE (R-Ky.) this week threatened to force votes blocking any new weapon sales to the Kingdom if the reports of foul play ring true.

"If they're responsible or even if there's any indication that they're implicated in killing this journalist that was critical of them, we've got to stop sending them arms," Paul said.

https://thehill.com/homenews/senate/410585-rand-paul-vows-to-force-vote-...

Thomas Melia, who was deputy assistant secretary of State for democracy and human rights under President Obama, said the administration has plenty of tools at its disposal to get to the bottom of the Khashoggi mystery.

“The State Department and the U.S. government have access to a lot of information, and it needs to use its access and its contacts in Saudi Arabia to get answers immediately,” Melia, now the Washington Director at PEN America, said during Wednesday’s briefing outside The Washington Post.

“If we can’t get a straight answer out of the Saudis on this, we have no relationship that’s worth speaking of.”

Connolly, for his part, rejected the notion that the administration should go soft on the Saudis for the sake of preserving relations with a nation representing almost 10 percent of U.S. petroleum imports. The Declaration of Independence guarantees life and liberty, Connolly noted.

“I don’t remember the words ‘oil dependency’ in that declaration,” he said.