Democratic senator: US must maintain strategic relationship with Saudis and hold them accountable

Democratic senator: US must maintain strategic relationship with Saudis and hold them accountable
© Anna Moneymaker

Sen. Ben CardinBenjamin (Ben) Louis CardinOvernight Defense: Senate moves toward vote on bill ending support for Saudi war | House GOP blocks Yemen war votes for rest of year | Trump throws uncertainty into Pentagon budget | Key Dem to leave transgender troop ban to courts George H.W. Bush remembered at Kennedy Center Honors Democratic senator: US must maintain strategic relationship with Saudis and hold them accountable MORE (D-Md.) said Sunday that the U.S. needs to make sure those involved in the murder of reporter Jamal Khashoggi are held accountable, but that the strategic relationship with Saudi Arabia should be maintained.

"There’s no doubt in my mind that the crown prince knew what was going on in Turkey and was very much involved in that," Cardin told "Fox News Sunday," referencing the murder of Khashoggi inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in early October.

"We cannot allow that type of conduct to go unchallenged," he said. "The United States needs to have a pretty strong position on it and we have to demand that there be accountability."

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"That does not mean that we can’t continue to have a strategic relationship with Saudi Arabia," he said, but added that the U.S. is in the stronger position in the relationship. "They need America."

U.S. lawmakers have struggled to balance the two countries' strategic partnership with punishing those involved in Khashoggi's death. A number of Democrats have suggested slashing ties with Saudi Arabia entirely. The Senate, with Republican support, last week advanced a resolution to end U.S. military support for the Saudi-led campaign in Yemen’s civil war, even though the White House scrambled to halt the bill.

An American resident, Khashoggi disappeared after entering the consulate on Oct. 2. Saudi Arabia later admitted he'd been killed inside the consulate, but denied officially sanctioning his death. The CIA reportedly has intelligence indicating communication between the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman, and his adviser who oversaw the effort to kill Khashoggi, around the time of his death. President TrumpDonald John TrumpProsecutors investigating Trump inaugural fund, pro-Trump super PAC for possible illegal foreign donations: NY Times George Conway: Why take Trump's word over prosecutors' if he 'lies about virtually everything' Federal judge says lawsuit over Trump travel ban waivers will proceed MORE has dismissed the reports and several U.S. officials have said there is no evidence of direct reporting between the crown prince and those responsible for the murder. 

In statements two weeks ago about Khashoggi's death, Trump focused on what Saudi Arabia does for the U.S. as a strategic partner and how their relationship with the U.S. fits into a larger geopolitical picture.