Trump Eases off Saudi Sanctions Despite Khashoggi Murder

Published February 10th, 2019 - 07:44 GMT
US President Donald Trump waves as he departs the White House in Washington, DC, on February 8, 2019. (AFP/ File Photo)
US President Donald Trump waves as he departs the White House in Washington, DC, on February 8, 2019. (AFP/ File Photo)

President Donald Trump declined to meet senators' deadline for him to identify who is behind Jamal Khashoggi's death and decide if there should be U.S. sanctions.

A bipartisan group of senators, led by Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and former Sen. Bob Corker, R.-Tenn., ordered the president in a letter last October to meet the deadline within 120 days, Politico reported.

The Global Magnitsky Act authorizes the president to impose sanctions against a foreign person or entity responsible for killings, torture or other gross violation of human rights against an individual in a foreign country seeking to expose illegal activity carried out by government. Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist, had been living in the United States fearing arrest for criticizing Saudi leadership, before he was killed after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2 to obtain paperwork for a wedding.

A National Security Council source told CNN Friday the administration has "no legal obligation" to respond.

The United States was "the first country to take significant measures, including visa actions and sanctions under the Global Magnitsky Act, against those responsible for this heinous act," the senior administration official said Friday, defending Trump's decision against meeting the deadline. "Consistent with the previous Administration's position and the constitutional separation of powers, the President maintains his discretion to decline to act on congressional committee requests when appropriate."

Later Friday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo sent Senate foreign relations committee chairman James Risch, R-Idaho, and Menendez a letter that addressed steps the administration has taken on the issue.

Risch seemed optimistic.

"I anticipate a more detailed briefing from the administration on this issue and look forward to working with them and the members of my committee in our ongoing effort to address the killing of Jamal Khashoggi," Risch said. "Legislation has been introduced on this issue in both the House and Senate, with more to come."

However, Menendez painted a bleak picture.

"I am very disappointed that the response from Secretary Pompeo doesn't come close to fulfilling the statutory mandate and demonstrates what the administration has wanted all along -- the Khashoggi murder to be forgotten," Menendez said. "I will continue to push for the President to fully hold accountable those responsible for the death of Mr. Khashoggi and to uphold United States laws."

The deadline was missed despite CIA intelligence indicating last year that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was involved in Khashoggi's killing in Turkey.

The intelligence officials convinced lawmakers that the crown prince was responsible, but not Trump, who said in a statement, "maybe he did and maybe he didn't!"

A day before the White House missed the deadline, more evidence surfaced as The New York Times reported that the crown prince also threatened two years ago to use "a bullet" on Khashoggi if he didn't return to the kingdom and stop criticizing the government.'

This article has been adapted from its original source.


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