October 17, 2018
Although President Donald Trump has suggested that “rogue players” were responsible for the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2, two of his most avid GOP acolytes are not supporting that version of the story.
Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina), who adamantly backed the POTUS’s Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, during the Judicial Committee hearings late last month—and who is said to be bucking for a Cabinet position within the administration—came out strongly against the Saudi Crown Prince on October 16, during an appearance on Fox & Friends.
“I’ve been their biggest defender on the floor of the United States Senate,” Graham said of the Saudi leadership. However, he commented, “This guy [Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman] is a wrecking ball. Nothing happens in Saudi Arabia without MBS knowing it.”
The observations by Graham—described by Bloomberg as “an influential foreign policy hawk in Congress who frequently advises President Donald Trump”—represented some of the harshest words yet made in public by a senior Republican on the Khashoggi disappearance, that news outlet said. He said he’d support efforts to “sanction the hell out of Saudi Arabia.”
“He had this guy murdered in a consulate in Turkey and to expect me to ignore it, I feel used and abused,” Graham said on Fox. “I was on the floor every time defending Saudi Arabia because it’s a good ally. There’s a difference between a country and an individual. The MBS figure is to me toxic. He can never be a world leader on the world stage.”
Graham also signed off on an October 10 letter to President Trump that aimed to trigger both an investigation into the alleged murder and sanctions for the Saudis.
The letter read, in part, “The recent disappearance of Saudi journalist and Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi suggests that he could be a victim of a gross violation of internationally recognized human rights, which includes ‘torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment, prolonged detention without charges and trial, causing the disappearance of persons by the abduction and clandestine detention of those persons, and other flagrant denial of the right to life, liberty, or the security of person.’ Therefore, we request that you make a determination on the imposition of sanctions pursuant to the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act with respect to any foreign person responsible for such a violation related to Mr. Khashoggi. Our expectation is that in making your determination you will consider any relevant information, including with respect to the highest ranking officials in the Government of Saudi Arabia.”
The other signatories on the letter included Senators Bob Corker (Tennessee) and Bob Menendez (D-New Jersey), who are, respectively the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee; and Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont), who is ranking member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs (of which Graham, himself is chairman). In addition, a number of other legislators, both Democratic and Republican, added their names to the correspondence.
In addition, an October 16 report by Bloomberg noted that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky)—who has supported Trump on every major policy effort, from deconstructing Obamacare to the tax bill to the Supreme Court nomination— said the disappearance and possible murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi looks “extremely disturbing” but the United States needs to determine what role Saudi Arabia’s government may have played before responding.
“Clearly we need to find out what happened before deciding what action should be taken,” McConnell said Tuesday in an interview with Bloomberg News. “I can’t imagine if what we think happened, that we would take no action.”
Asked whether that action would include halting arms sales to the Saudis, McConnell said he’s not ready to say which form of action he would take. He that the president did “the right thing” by sending Secretary of State Michael Pompeo to Saudi Arabia on October 15 to meet with King Salman bin Abdulaziz.
Research contact: @DonnaAN1