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Senate rebukes Trump for his poor handling of Saudi Arabia, Khashoggi

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WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 29: U.S. President Donald Trump walks toward a group of reporters to answer questions while departing the White House November 29, 2018 in Washington, DC. Trump answered numerous questions regarding his former attorney Michael Cohen's recent court appearance and testimony before departing for the G-20 summit in Buenos Aires. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
Win
McNamee/Getty Images


  • A handful of senators flipped their votes to support
    advancement of invoking the War Powers Resolution, which had been
    the result of an increasingly deteriorating relationship between
    Congress and Saudi Arabia.
  • The advancement of the resolution passed 63-37, with 14
    Republicans joining all the Senate Democrats.
  • Senators are putting together different proposals to respond
    to the Saudis in a more forceful way than the Trump
    administration has.

WASHINGTON — Lawmakers’ views of the Saudi Arabian government are
at an all-time low, which came into full force on Wednesday when
enough senators rebuked the Trump administration’s policies by

advancing a resolution
to end the US involvement in the war
in Yemen being spearheaded by the Saudis.

The move to invoke the War Powers Resolution did not come easy.
The Senate failed to move forward on the same resolution last
March. But the worsening humanitarian crisis in Yemen, coupled
with the Saudi’s apparent murder of Washington Post journalist
Jamal Khashoggi  — which President Donald Trump has
largely dismissed — started changing minds on both sides of the
aisle.


Read more:

Bernie Sanders slams US support for ‘despotic’ Saudi Arabia in
Yemen and bashes Trump over Khashoggi: ‘No more! Enough death.
Enough killing.’

Sen. Bob Corker, who chairs the powerful Senate Committee on
Foreign Relations, told reporters on Thursday that the Trump
administration’s poor handling of everything involved had
accelerated matters.

“I prefer these things to be handled by the
administration,” he said. “So far that’s been lacking.”

And the unprecedented move to assert such congressional
authority is aggravating White House officials. 

“This is new territory,” Corker said. “This hasn’t been
done in the past and I want to do everything I can to ensure that
this is handled in a dignified manner.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham joined the bipartisan group out of pure
anger at the lack of explanations from the administration. While
lawmakers received a briefing from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo
and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, they wanted more, specifically
a rundown from CIA Director Gina Haspel.

“I changed my mind because I’m pissed,” Graham told
reporters. “I don’t agree with what [Lee, Murphy, and Sanders]
are doing. I don’t think the War Powers Act is one,
constitutional, two, the aid we provide to Saudi Arabia and Yemen
would require an authorization to use military force. Having said
that, the way the administration has handled the Saudi Arabia is
just not acceptable.”

On Thursday, Graham said
he had been informed he would receive a briefing from the CIA at
some point next week. 

How the Democrats who were previously opposed were
converted

Since the failed March vote, the resolution offered by
Democratic Sens. Bernie Sanders and Chris Murphy, who are joined
by Republican Sen. Mike Lee of Utah, has gained steam and
attracted previous no votes. The Wednesday vote showed a sea
change of 18 Democrats and Republicans flipping their
positions.

One Democratic aide to a senator who flipped their vote described
Senate Armed Services ranking member Jack Reed getting on board
as “a game changer” that pulled in the Democrats who opposed it
last time.

Other Democrats cited the information they learned inside the
briefing as the catalyst for switching their position. In total,
18 senators changed their votes.

Still, there is work to be done on the issue, as most Republicans
would prefer to take another route. Options on the table are
still unclear, but senators are working on proposals that could
send a stronger message to the Saudis than anything the White
House has done.

Sen. Marco Rubio, who opposed the resolution, reiterated to
reporters Thursday they will still need to address Saudi Arabia,
but through other means.

“I certainly don’t think the resolution is the right answer
to how to handle this. But it should be handled,” he said. “We
have to do something about what happened with Khashoggi and about
recalibrating our relationship with the Saudis. But the Yemen
resolution is the wrong way to do the right thing.”

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