A bi-partisan group of Senators is demanding that President Donald Trump give a firm answer about whether or not Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Tennessee Republican Senator Bob Corker and New Jersey Democratic Senator Bob Menendez sent a letter to the president, Politico reports, that requests he investigates the killing under the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act.
This is the second letter that the heads of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee have sent to the president about the murder, though the original letter did not reference the Saudi prince specifically. This time, the letter demands that Trump make a determination about what took place and who is responsible, including whether the prince had any knowledge or involvement in the killing, which took place last month in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
“In light of recent developments, including the Saudi government’s acknowledgment that Saudi officials killed Mr. Khashoggi in its Istanbul consulate, we request that your determination specifically address whether Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is responsible for Mr. Khashoggi’s murder,” the letter says.
By invoking the Magnitsky Act, the president can impose sanctions on any country found to have committed a human rights violation.
The move comes after the CIA revealed that they believe the murder was carried out with the knowledge of the crown prince. But Trump has prevaricated, saying that it could be possible that the prince didn’t know.
“Our intelligence agencies continue to assess all information, but it could very well be that the crown prince had knowledge of this tragic event – maybe he did and maybe he didn’t!” the president said. “That being said, we may never know all of the facts surrounding the murder of Mr. Jamal Khashoggi… the United States intends to remain a steadfast partner of Saudi Arabia to ensure the interests of our country, Israel and all other partners in the region.”
Trump then went on to defend Saudi Arabia, saying it would be a “terrible mistake” to “abandon” the country, and said that his administration would not give up “hundreds of billions of dollars” over Khashoggi’s death.
He also tweeted a thank you to Saudi Arabia for lowering oil prices in the US on Wednesday.
Oil prices getting lower. Great! Like a big Tax Cut for America and the World. Enjoy! $54, was just $82. Thank you to Saudi Arabia, but let’s go lower!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 21, 2018
Many people have been critical of Trump’s position.
“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 said.
“Maybe he did and maybe he didn’t” won’t cut it. So tonight, @SenatorMenendez and I sent a second Global Magnitsky letter to the president requiring that he specifically determine whether Saudi Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman is responsible for the murder of Jamal #Khashoggi.
— Senator Bob Corker (@SenBobCorker) November 21, 2018