Pompeo downplays differences between Senate, Trump on Saudi Arabia

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Friday downplayed differences between the Trump administration and Congress over the Saudi-led war in Yemen after the Senate voted to end U.S. support for the war.

“We always have great respect for what the legislative branch does,” Pompeo said alongside Defense Secretary James Mattis and their Canadian counterparts at The State Department.

“We are in constant contact with members on Capitol Hill so that we understand fully their concerns and do our best to articulate why our policies are what they are and how we can ensure we are getting the right policy for the United States of America and to keep our country safe. We’ll certainly do that in light of yesterday’s vote.”

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The Senate resolution, passed on Thursday, deals a significant blow to President Trump amid heightened tensions over the death of U.S.-based Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

It would require the president to withdraw any troops in or “affecting” Yemen within 30 days unless they are fighting al Qaeda.

The resolution will not be passed by the GOP-led House, but with Democrats taking over the chamber in January, the issue could come back to the front-burner.

The administration late last month tried to stop the Senate resolution withdrawing U.S. support by sending Pompeo and Mattis to Capitol Hill to brief senators and urge them to oppose the measure.  

The resolution was approved amid rising anger among Republicans over Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s role in the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, a U.S. resident.

Earlier this week, Trump said that he would stand by the Saudi government despite reports that U.S. intelligence officials believe the crown prince ordered Khashoggi's killing inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul in early October.

The Senate also on Thursday passed a separate resolution specifically naming the crown prince as responsible for Khashoggi's death.

Pompeo maintained that Trump “has been very clear about the importance” of holding accountable those who killed Khashoggi and protecting American citizens, then shifted the conversation to Iran, a tactic also used by the president.

“There are hundreds of thousands of people that the Iranians killed and been involved in their deaths all across the Middle East. There’s real risk to the United States of America, you’ll recall that the Iranians and their explosive devices killed hundreds of American soldiers. President TrumpDonald John TrumpPapadopoulos claims he was pressured to sign plea deal Tlaib asking colleagues to support impeachment investigation resolution Trump rips 'Mainstream Media': 'They truly are the Enemy of the People' MORE is determined to make sure that we protect America all the while holding accountable those who committed the heinous murder of Jamal Khashoggi,” he said.

Mattis said that the Defense Department respects the Senate vote and noted recent progress in seeking to end Yemen’s civil war.

After a week of talks in Sweden, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Thursday that Yemen’s warring parties agreed to stop fighting for the port city of Hodeidah, the first major concession in U.N.-led peace efforts.