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) MenendezWe can accelerate a cure for Alzheimer's The Hill's 12:30 Report: Manafort sentenced to total of 7.5 years in prison Acting Defense chief calls Graham an 'ally' after tense exchange MORE (D-N.J.) said in a statement Thursday.

Menendez introduced the bill with Sens. Todd YoungTodd Christopher YoungGOP senators divided on Trump trade pushback Menendez, Rubio lead Senate effort to regulate Venezuelan sanctions Senate GOP proposes constitutional amendment to keep Supreme Court at 9 seats MORE (R-Ind.), Jack ReedJohn (Jack) Francis Reed Embattled senators fill coffers ahead of 2020 Senators show deep skepticism on Space Force proposal Barr says 'spying' took place on Trump campaign MORE (D-R.I.), Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamHillicon Valley: House Dems subpoena full Mueller report | DOJ pushes back at 'premature' subpoena | Dems reject offer to view report with fewer redactions | Trump camp runs Facebook ads about Mueller report | Uber gets B for self-driving cars DOJ: Dem subpoena for Mueller report is 'premature and unnecessary' Dems reject Barr's offer to view Mueller report with fewer redactions MORE (R-S.C.), Jeanne ShaheenCynthia (Jeanne) Jeanne Shaheen Embattled senators fill coffers ahead of 2020 William Barr is right to investigate FBI actions during 2016 campaign Trolling of Bill Barr shows how language is twisted to politics MORE (D-N.H.), Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsSenate Republicans tested on Trump support after Mueller Collins: Mueller report includes 'an unflattering portrayal' of Trump GOP senator: 'No problem' with Mueller testifying MORE (R-Maine) and Chris MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott MurphyOnly four Dem senators have endorsed 2020 candidates More than 30 Senate Dems ask Trump to reconsider Central American aid cuts Long-shot goal of nixing Electoral College picks up steam 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 TrumpThorny part of obstruction of justice is proving intent, that's a job for Congress Obama condemns attacks in Sri Lanka as 'an attack on humanity' Schiff rips Conway's 'display of alternative facts' on Russian election interference 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.”