Senators reintroduce bill to punish Saudis for Khashoggi killing

A bipartisan group of senators is renewing a push to punish Saudi officials for the death of U.S.-based journalist Jamal Khashoggi, reintroducing Thursday a bill that would require sanctions on those responsible for the killing.

In addition to responding to the Khashoggi killing, the bill also seeks to address support for the Yemen civil war by prohibiting some weapons sales to Saudi Arabia and U.S. military refueling of Saudi coalition planes.

“Seeing as the Trump administration has no intention of insisting on full accountability for Mr. Khashoggi’s murderers, it is time for Congress to step in and impose real consequences to fundamentally reexamine our relationship with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and with the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen,” Senate Foreign Relations committee ranking member Sen. Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezMedia's selective outrage exposed in McSally-Raju kerfuffle Dem senators say Iran threat to embassies not mentioned in intelligence briefing Overnight Defense: Iran crisis eases as Trump says Tehran 'standing down' | Dems unconvinced on evidence behind Soleimani strike | House sets Thursday vote on Iran war powers MORE (D-N.J.) said in a statement Thursday.

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Menendez introduced the bill with Sens. Todd YoungTodd Christopher YoungIran resolution supporters fear impeachment will put it on back burner Senate GOP's campaign arm hauls in million in 2019 Sens. Kaine, Lee: 'We should not be at war with Iran unless Congress authorizes it' MORE (R-Ind.), Jack ReedJohn (Jack) Francis ReedOvernight Defense: Book says Trump called military leaders 'dopes and babies' | House reinvites Pompeo for Iran hearing | Dems urge Esper to reject border wall funding request Senate Dems urge Esper to oppose shifting Pentagon money to border wall Sanders defends vote against USMCA: 'Not a single damn mention' of climate change MORE (D-R.I.), Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamLawmakers push back at Pentagon's possible Africa drawdown George Conway group drops ad seeking to remind GOP senators of their 'sworn oaths' ahead of impeachment trial House Democrats may call new impeachment witnesses if Senate doesn't MORE (R-S.C.), Jeanne ShaheenCynthia (Jeanne) Jeanne Shaheen2020 forecast: A House switch, a slimmer Senate for GOP — and a bigger win for Trump Lewandowski decides against Senate bid Biden would consider Republican for VP 'but I can't think of one right now' MORE (D-N.H.), Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsMitch McConnell may win the impeachment and lose the Senate Murkowski wants senators to 'really hear the case' before deciding on impeachment witnesses Republicans will pay on Election Day for politicizing Trump's impeachment MORE (R-Maine) and Chris MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott MurphyIran resolution supporters fear impeachment will put it on back burner Parnas pressure grows on Senate GOP Democrats request briefing on intel behind Trump's embassy threat claim MORE (D-Conn.).

The bill was first introduced in November while an outraged Congress raced to respond to Khashoggi’s death, though it was not one of the measures that advanced.

Khashoggi, a Saudi dissident and Washington Post columnist, was killed in October while at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

The Trump administration levied sanctions on some Saudi officials after the murder, but Congress demanded a stronger response. President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump rails against impeachment in speech to Texas farmers Trump administration planning to crack down on 'birth tourism': report George Conway on Trump adding Dershowitz, Starr to legal team: 'Hard to see how either could help' MORE has emphasized the strategic alliance with Saudi Arabia and denied that there is proof Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was behind the killing.

In December, the Senate approved a resolution naming Prince Mohammed “responsible” for the slaying, as well as a separate resolution to cut off U.S. military support for the Saudi coalition in Yemen’s civil war.

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The Senate Foreign Relations Committee also sent a letter to Trump in October invoking the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act, requiring him to determine who is responsible for the killing and whether sanctions should be imposed on that person or people.

The 120-day deadline for the sanctions determination is nearing, and the reintroduction of the sanctions bill is meant to coincide with that deadline.

Graham, a Trump ally who has been one of the most vocal senators on the Khashoggi issue, said Thursday it is not in the national security interest to “look the other way when it comes to the brutal murder” of Khashoggi.

“While Saudi Arabia is a strategic ally, the behavior of the crown prince – in multiple ways – has shown disrespect for the relationship and made him, in my view, beyond toxic,” Graham said in a statement. “I fully realize we have to deal with bad actors and imperfect situations on the international stage. However, when we lose our moral voice, we lose our strongest asset.”

In addition to sanctions on those responsible for Khashoggi’s death, the bill would also require a report on human rights in Saudi Arabia.

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For the Yemen civil war, on top of stopping arms sales and refueling, the bill would require sanctions on those blocking humanitarian access in Yemen and those supporting the Houthi rebels in Yemen.

It would also require the administration deliver Congress a strategy to end the war and a report on violations of international law in the war. It would further require the Government Accountability Office to report on U.S. military support for the Saudi coalition.

“Beyond preventing President Trump from sweeping Mr. Khashoggi’s murder under the rug, this comprehensive legislation is based on the idea that America’s leadership on the global stage must always be driven by a sense of purpose and moral clarity,” Menendez said. “As I warned the administration last year, we will not accept the killings of more civilians and journalists with impunity and without consequence.”