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

Sen. Jeff MerkleyJeffrey (Jeff) Alan MerkleyOnly four Dem senators have endorsed 2020 candidates More than 30 Senate Dems ask Trump to reconsider Central American aid cuts Long-shot goal of nixing Electoral College picks up steam MORE (D-Ore.) on Wednesday night argued that President TrumpDonald John TrumpHouse Dems demand Barr cancel 'inappropriate' press conference on Mueller report DOJ plans to release 'lightly redacted' version of Mueller report Thursday: WaPo Nadler accuses Barr of 'unprecedented steps' to 'spin' Mueller report 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 MattisTrump learns to love acting officials Shanahan says he's 'never favored' Boeing as acting Defense chief Trump moves to install loyalists 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.