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GOP leaders slam Trump defense of Saudi Arabia over Khashoggi killing

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Lindsey Graham
Sen.
Lindsey Graham said he plans to call for sanctions against Saudi
Arabia over the disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal
Khashoggi.

Michael Reynolds/Getty
Images


  • Several GOP officials on Tuesday offered scathing
    responses to
    President Donald Trump’s statement
    outlining his
    administration’s position on Saudi Arabia over the brutal
    murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
  • The president’s forceful defense of Saudi Arabia
    follows recent
    reports
    suggesting the CIA’s “high confidence” that Crown
    Prince Mohammed bin Salman directly ordered Khashoggi’s
    killing.
  • The statement has been
    widely bashed
     by officials and groups across the
    political spectrum.
  • “I’m pretty sure this statement is Saudi Arabia First,
    not America First,” Sen. Rand Paul wrote on Twitter
  • “I never thought I’d see the day a White House would
    moonlight as a public relations firm for the Crown Prince of
    Saudi Arabia,” Sen. Bob Corker tweeted.
  • Saudi Arabia continues to distance its crown prince from
    the murder, but it may be too late.

Several GOP officials on Tuesday offered scathing responses to

President Donald Trump’s statement
which appeared to side
with Saudi Arabia over the brutal murder of journalist Jamal
Khashoggi.

Several of Trump’s
top GOP allies
, including Rand Paul and Lindsey Graham,
criticised the president’s forceful defense of Saudi
Arabia in light of
recent reports
suggesting the CIA has concluded with “high
confidence” that the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman directly
ordered Khashoggi’s killing.

Trump on Tuesday
released a lengthy statement
in which he recycled
unsubstantiated Saudi attacks on Khashoggi’s character and
suggested it was possible the crown prince didn’t know about the
plot to murder Khashoggi despite the alleged CIA assessment
saying otherwise. 

Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, who emerged this summer as one
of the president’s biggest allies on issues relating to
Russia
, slammed Trump’s defense of Saudi Arabia. 

“I’m pretty sure this statement is Saudi Arabia First, not
America First,” he wrote on Twitter
Tuesday. “I’m also pretty sure John Bolton wrote
it.” 

“The President indicates that Saudi Arabia is the lesser of
two evils compared to Iran and so the US won’t punish Saudi
Arabia for the brutal killing and dismemberment of a dissident
journalist in their consulate. I disagree.” He also pledged to
push for legislation to stop Saudi arms sales and the ongoing war
with Yemen. 

Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, who
previously led a group
 of US officials urging for
sanctions against Saudis connected Khashoggi’s
disappearance, said congress will “consider all of the tools at
our disposal” to prosecute those involved. 

“I never thought I’d see the day a White House would
moonlight as a public relations firm for the Crown Prince of
Saudi Arabia,” Corker
tweeted
. He also touted the possibility of requiring a
definitive clarification on Prince Mohammed’s purported role in
the killing. 

Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who has recently
transformed into 
an
icon of the right
, called for “serious sanctions” against
Saudi Arabia, including members of the royal family. 

“I firmly believe there will be strong bipartisan support for
serious sanctions against Saudi Arabia, including appropriate
members of the royal family, for this barbaric act which defied
all civilized norms,” he
tweeted

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,” he
added. “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.”

Trump has been widely bashed for siding with the
Saudis 


TRUMP SAUDI arabia
Saudi
Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud (L) receives US
President Donald Trump for the Arab Islamic American Summit in
Riyadh, Saudi Arabia May 21, 2017.

REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

Trump has been
widely bashed
 for what appears to signal his
siding with Saudi Arabia over numerous US intelligence agencies
and officials in their assessment of Khashoggi’s murder on
October 2. 

Khashoggi’s editor at The Washington Post, Karen Attiah,
said Trump’s statement represents “a new low.”

Former CIA director John Brennan tweeted that Trump
“excels in dishonesty,” and called on members of Congress to
declassify CIA findings on Khashoggi’s death. 

Daniel Balson, an official at Amnesty International,
warned that the Trump administration could be sending out a
powerful message about killing journalists and critics without
consequence in its handling of Khashoggi’s case. 

And Democratic Senator Chris Murphy, who sits on the
Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said “It’s now 100% clear
the Saudis own our President.”

Saudi Arabia keeps trying to distance its crown prince,
but it may be too late 


Mohammed bin Salman
Saudi
Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is in hot
water.

Bandar Algaloud/Courtesy of
Saudi Royal Court/Handout via REUTERS


On Tuesday, Saudi foreign minister Adel Jubeir said
allegations linking
the crown prince to the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi
are false
.

“We in the kingdom know that such allegations about the
crown prince have no basis in truth and we categorically reject
them,” al-Jubeir was quoted as saying in
Saudi-owned Al
Sharq Al Awsat
newspaper.

Several news outlets reported over the weekend that the
CIA has determined that the crown
prince ordered Khashoggi’s assassination
. The CIA’s
conclusion is reportedly based on several pieces of
intelligence, including a call from Saudi ambassador Khalid bin
Salman — Mohammed’s brother — to Khashoggi, and audio
recordings of the killing that have been circulating around
global intelligence agencies.

A former CIA officer and intelligence analyst also
claimed the Trump
administration is helping the crown prince cover up the October
2 murder
.

Saudi Arabia has repeatedly and vehemently denied that
its crown prince had any role in Khashoggi’s death, though its
version of the events surrounding Khashoggi’s murder
have shifted
several times
 over the last several
weeks. 

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