Democrats demand Saudi accountability over Khashoggi killing

Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.)
Greg Nash

Democrats are using the release of the U.S. intelligence report that implicated Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in the killing of U.S.-based journalist Jamal Khashoggi to press for accountability for the Saudi critic’s death.

The declassified report from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence found that the crown prince approved an operation “to capture or kill” Khashoggi, who at the time was a resident in Virginia but had traveled in October 2018 to the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, where he was attacked, killed and dismembered.

Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, praised President Biden’s “commitment to transparency and compliance with law” by releasing the report. The Trump administration had delivered a classified version to Congress last year but resisted releasing an unclassified version publicly.

“At the same time, I am hopeful it is only a first step and that the administration plans to take concrete measures holding Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman personally responsible for his role in this heinous crime,” Menendez said in a statement.

He said the U.S. “must send a clear signal to our allies and adversaries alike that fundamental values, including respect for basic human rights and human dignity, drive U.S. foreign policy,” adding there must also be “real consequences for individuals” like the crown prince.

“If not, autocrats around the world will get the message that impunity is the rule,” the senator added.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) tweeted that Crown Prince Mohammad, who is often referred to by his initials, MBS, “cannot be allowed to get away with monstrous murder.” 

“A reset in US-Saudi relations & accountability is urgently needed,” he added. 

“For too long, the U.S. failed to hold Saudi Arabia accountable for the murder of journalist, dissident, and Virginia resident Jamal Khashoggi,” tweeted Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee, calling the release of the report “overdue.”

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) vowed that Democrats would “continue to press” for accountability for the killing of Khashoggi, a columnist for The Washington Post.

“For two years, we pushed for the truth to be made public: The highest levels of the Saudi government, including Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, are responsible for the brutal murder of Jamal Khashoggi,” Schiff tweeted. 

The intelligence report came alongside the announcement of visa restrictions on 76 individuals from Saudi Arabia believed to have been involved in Khashoggi’s killing. Families of the individuals included in the “Khashoggi Ban” may also be open to visa restrictions, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement.

The pressure from Democratic lawmakers came as The New York Times reported Friday afternoon that Biden decided not to directly punish the crown prince, with officials telling the news outlet that consensus had built within the White House that the cost of penalizing Saudi Arabia would be too high.

Biden on Thursday spoke with Saudi King Salman, and while a White House readout of the call did not specifically mention Khashoggi, the two leaders “affirmed the importance the United States places on universal human rights and the rule of law.”

Former President Trump repeatedly brushed away allegations that the crown prince was involved in Khashoggi’s death, instead prioritizing diplomacy to maintain the economic relationship between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia.

Tags Adam Schiff Antony Blinken Bob Menendez Donald Trump House Intelligence Committee intelligence reports Jamal Khashoggi Jamal Khashoggi killing Joe Biden Khashoggi report King Salman Mark Warner Mohammed bin Salman Saudi Arabia Senate Foreign Relations Committee Senate Intelligence Committee The Washington Post United States Virginia

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