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) MenendezPaul blocks Senate vote on House-passed Syria resolution House to vote on resolution condemning Trump's Syria pullback Rand Paul calls for probe of Democrats over Ukraine letter MORE (D-N.J.) said in a statement Thursday.

Menendez introduced the bill with Sens. Todd YoungTodd Christopher YoungPaul blocks Senate vote on House-passed Syria resolution Lawmakers set to host fundraisers focused on Nats' World Series trip Senators fear Syria damage 'irreversible' after Esper, Milley briefing MORE (R-Ind.), Jack ReedJohn (Jack) Francis ReedErdoğan got the best of Trump, experts warn Senators fear Syria damage 'irreversible' after Esper, Milley briefing This week: Congress returns to chaotic Washington MORE (D-R.I.), Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamErdoğan got the best of Trump, experts warn Graham: I'm seeking to make Trump successful 'but not at all costs' The Memo: Trump's sea of troubles deepens MORE (R-S.C.), Jeanne ShaheenCynthia (Jeanne) Jeanne ShaheenGraham, Van Hollen introduce Turkey sanctions bill Senators fear Syria damage 'irreversible' after Esper, Milley briefing US envoy insists Syria pullout doesn't affect Iran strategy MORE (D-N.H.), Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsOvernight Energy: Perry to step down as Energy secretary | Future of big-game hunting council up in the air | Dems lose vote against EPA power plant rule Overnight Defense — Presented by Boeing — Pence says Turkey agrees to ceasefire | Senators vow to move forward with Turkey sanctions | Mulvaney walks back comments tying Ukraine aid to 2016 probe On The Money: Senate fails to override Trump veto over border emergency | Trump resort to host G-7 next year | Senators to push Turkey sanctions despite ceasefire | McConnell tees up funding votes MORE (R-Maine) and Chris MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott MurphyPelosi, Schumer hit 'flailing' Trump over 'sham ceasefire' deal Romney slams ceasefire deal, calls Trump's Syria move 'a bloodstain' in US history Backlash erupts at video depicting Trump killing media, critics 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 TrumpPelosi arrives in Jordan with bipartisan congressional delegation Trump says his Doral resort will no longer host G-7 after backlash CNN's Anderson Cooper mocks WH press secretary over Fox News interview 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.

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.

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.”