Lawmakers seeking intel on alleged Saudi plot against journalist

Lawmakers seeking intel on alleged Saudi plot against journalist
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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 PocanHouse progressives may try to block vote on Pelosi drug bill Overnight Health Care: House to vote next week on drug prices bill | Conway says Trump trying to find 'balance' on youth vaping | US spent trillion on hospitals in 2018 Progressive leader warns members could vote no on drug price bill as it stands MORE (Wis.) and Ro KhannaRohit (Ro) KhannaThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Impeachment fight shifts to House Judiciary Democrats hit gas on impeachment George Soros, Charles Koch foundations help launch pro-peace think tank MORE (Calif.) are circulating a letter to Director of National Intelligence Dan CoatsDaniel (Dan) Ray CoatsFormer US intel official says Trump would often push back in briefings Hillicon Valley: Amazon to challenge Pentagon cloud contract in court | State antitrust investigation into Google expands | Intel agencies no longer collecting location data without warrant Intelligence agencies have stopped collecting cellphone data without warrants: letter 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.

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“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 TrumpPence: It's not a "foregone conclusion" that lawmakers impeach Trump FBI identifies Pensacola shooter as Saudi Royal Saudi Air Force second lieutenant Trump calls Warren 'Pocahontas,' knocks wealth tax 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.