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 TrumpBiden on Trump's refusal to commit to peaceful transfer of power: 'What country are we in?' Romney: 'Unthinkable and unacceptable' to not commit to peaceful transition of power Two Louisville police officers shot amid Breonna Taylor grand jury protests MORE and State Secretary Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoTreasury sanctions individuals, groups tied to Russian malign influence activities Navalny released from hospital after suspected poisoning Overnight Defense: Pentagon redirects pandemic funding to defense contractors | US planning for full Afghanistan withdrawal by May | Anti-Trump GOP group puts ads in military papers MORE to get tougher on Riyadh amid the ongoing search for Jamal Khashoggi.

Rep. Gerry ConnollyGerald (Gerry) Edward ConnollyJudge issues nationwide injunction against Postal Service changes House panel advances bill to ban Postal Service leaders from holding political positions Shakespeare Theatre Company goes virtual for 'Will on the Hill...or Won't They?' 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.

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“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 KushnerAbraham Accords: New hope for peace in Middle East Tenants in Kushner building file lawsuit alleging dangerous living conditions Trump hosts Israel, UAE, Bahrain for historic signing 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.

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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 PaulRand Paul says he can't judge 'guilt or innocence' in Breonna Taylor case Overnight Health Care: Health officials tell public to trust in science | Despair at CDC under Trump influence | A new vaccine phase 3 trial starts Health officials tell public to trust in science 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.