Lawmakers seeking intel on alleged Saudi plot against journalist

Lawmakers seeking intel on alleged Saudi plot against journalist
© Getty Images

A pair of House Democrats is urging their colleagues to join them in calling for the U.S. intelligence community to release information on any advanced knowledge it had of a reported Saudi plot to capture journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Democratic Reps. Mark PocanMark William PocanDems offer measure to raise minimum wage to per hour House Dems to introduce minimum wage bill Congress poised to push back at Trump on Saudi Arabia, Syria MORE (Wis.) and Ro KhannaRohit (Ro) KhannaDem rep proposes Trump, Congress hire mediators to resolve shutdown Blue states buck Trump to expand health coverage Ocasio-Cortez sparks debate with talk of 70 percent marginal rate MORE (Calif.) are circulating a letter to Director of National Intelligence Dan CoatsDaniel (Dan) Ray CoatsThe Hill's Morning Report — Trump’s attorney general pick passes first test Dems zero in on Trump and Russia National security center launches program to help US firms guard against foreign hackers MORE, seeking signatures before they send it next week, according to a Friday news release.

In the letter, the lawmakers want to know if the Trump administration warned Khashoggi of any threats against him, linking their request to efforts to end U.S. support for Saudi Arabia in Yemen’s civil war.

ADVERTISEMENT

“In weighing the merits of U.S.-Saudi military cooperation, it is imperative that members of Congress have a full, detailed grasp of the intelligence community's knowledge of Saudi actions and their potentially harmful impact on the wellbeing of U.S. residents and citizens, as well as any U.S. intelligence failures pertaining to Saudi activities that may have contributed to needless loss of life,” the letter says.

Khashoggi has not been seen since Oct. 2, when he visited the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to get paperwork for his marriage to his Turkish fiancée.

Khashoggi has been living in self-imposed exile in the Washington, D.C., area since 2017 and writing columns for The Washington Post critical of the Saudi government.

Turkish officials claim he was murdered inside the consulate and dismembered there. Saudi officials say that allegation is baseless and that he left the consulate alive the same day.

The Washington Post reported Wednesday that U.S. intelligence intercepted discussions between Saudi officials about a plan ordered by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to lure Khashoggi back to Saudi Arabia and detain him.

In their letter, the lawmakers highlight that a 2015 directive gives the intelligence community the duty to warn both U.S. citizens and noncitizens of threats of serious bodily injury, kidnapping and intentional killing.

“Given your office oversees the U.S. intelligence community's duty-to-warn process, we seek urgent answers as to whether Mr. Khashoggi was in fact contacted about the credible threat to his life and liberty posed by the Saudi plot to capture him; the precise date on which any arm of the U.S. intelligence community first became aware of the Saudi plan to detain Mr. Khashoggi; and whether the intelligence community will declassify portions of U.S. intercepts of Saudi officials relevant to Mr. Khashoggi's disappearance,” the letter says.

The letter also warns Coats the lawmakers will “use the full force of congressional oversight and investigatory powers to obtain these answers should they not be forthcoming” because of the issue’s potential “profound ramifications.”

Senators have asked President TrumpDonald John TrumpSunday shows preview: Shutdown negotiations continue after White House immigration proposal Rove warns Senate GOP: Don't put only focus on base Ann Coulter blasts Trump shutdown compromise: ‘We voted for Trump and got Jeb!’ MORE to determine whether to levy sanctions on the Saudis. Others have also pledged to halt arms sales and cut off support to the Saudis in Yemen. 

Khanna previously introduced a war powers resolution in September to end U.S. military involvement in the Yemen civil war. The resolution is privileged, meaning he could force a vote, which is expected to happen when lawmakers return to D.C. in November.