Dem senator accuses Trump of aiding 'cover up' over Khashoggi

Sen. Jeff MerkleyJeffrey (Jeff) Alan MerkleyDems face tough vote on Green New Deal GOP Green New Deal stunt is a great deal for Democrats The border deal: What made it in, what got left out MORE (D-Ore.) on Wednesday night argued that President TrumpDonald John TrumpAverage tax refunds down double-digits, IRS data shows White House warns Maduro as Venezuela orders partial closure of border with Colombia Trump administration directs 1,000 more troops to Mexican border MORE is engaged in a "cover-up of the cover-up" in the killing of Saudi dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Merkley, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said he believes it's possible Trump would veto a Senate rebuke of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who has been accused of ordering Khashoggi's death.

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"His public argument has been that [the Saudis] are a good customer of our arms sales," Merkley told CNN. "And in a bit more sophisticated manner, Secretary [of State Mike] Pompeo has said they’re a source of significant assistance to our priorities in the region."

"So it’s kind of a realpolitik argument that we need to set aside the devastation they’re causing in Yemen, we need to set aside their assassination of an American resident because of those factors," Merkley added. "But what I think that argument misses is that at the heart of this our leadership in the world depends a great deal on our ability to promote a vision for the world that involves human rights, decency, respect, rule of law, leadership, and all those are damaged by this Trump cover-up."

Khashoggi, a Washington Post journalist and critic of Saudi leadership, was killed after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul more than two months ago.

Turkish officials have said that the killing was orchestrated by the highest levels of Saudi leadership, and several U.S. senators have voiced confidence the crown prince was involved.

Trump has defended the crown prince and pointed to his repeated denials of involvement in Khashoggi's death. He has cited the importance of economic ties with Saudi Arabia in opting not to pursue harsher punishment.

Pompeo and Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisOvernight Defense: Dems tee up Tuesday vote against Trump's emergency declaration | GOP expects few defections | Trump doubles number of troops staying in Syria to 400 Trump administration ups to 400 number of troops staying behind in Syria Kurdish-led Syrian administration cheers Trump decision to leave troops in region MORE briefed lawmakers last month, and indicated there was no "smoking gun" tying the crown prince to the killing.

CIA Director Gina Haspel briefed some senators this week on Khashoggi's killing, prompting renewed calls from senators for action against the crown prince.

A bipartisan group of senators on Wednesday introduced a resolution that would officially state the Senate finds the crown prince was "complicit" in Khashoggi's death.