Death of Jamal Khashoggi
Mr. President, I now turn to another topic. I rise today to call for
a forceful response to the murder of Jamal Khashoggi and to hold the
Saudi Government accountable at the highest levels. Our country is
stronger and safer when our core democratic values--values of freedom
of the press and the protection of human rights--are at the heart of
our foreign policy.
It has been almost 2 months since Jamal Khashoggi's heinous murder.
He was a resident of the United States and a respected journalist with
the Washington Post. People across our country have been rightfully
appalled by his death. All he was doing was going inside the consulate
in Turkey to try to get his marriage papers so that he could get
married to his fiancee. That was what was happening, but it turns out
he was actually lured there--lured to his death.
We were then treated to an incredible coverup by the Saudi
Government, with shifting explanations, inadequate cooperation with
investigations, and use of authoritarian tactics to silence critics.
News reports have made it clear that the CIA believes with high
confidence that the attack was called for at the highest level of the
I look forward to hearing from Secretaries Pompeo and Mattis
regarding how the administration plans to respond when we have the
briefing that has been scheduled for tomorrow. Unfortunately, the President has
repeatedly dismissed his own intelligence community's assessment of
these deeply troubling events. Of course, this is not the first time we
have heard this. We heard this with Russia, when every single one of
his intelligence heads clearly said that there had been interference in
the last elections and that the Russians were emboldened to do it
again. But the President again backed away from that, did not embrace
that assessment, and then made policy decisions and statements when he
was with Vladimir Putin that undermined that intelligence community.
This appears to be what we are seeing again.
The President's response stands in stark contrast to the founding
principles of our democracy. If the President refuses to defend the
values of this country, then this Congress must.
First, we must hold anyone who ordered and participated--including
the Crown Prince--in Mr. Khashoggi's death responsible. To do that, the
administration must conduct a full, transparent, and credible
Second, while the sanctions that the administration has imposed on 17
Saudi officials are an important first step, more must be done. I
support Senators Corker and Menendez in calling on the President to
report to Congress on whether the Crown Prince is responsible for this
murder. That is what they are supposed to do under the Global Magnitsky
Act. If, as reports suggest that the CIA has assessed, the Crown Prince
was involved, the sanctions must apply to him too. No one is above the
Third, I support suspending nuclear energy talks with Saudi Arabia.
It has recently been revealed that the administration has been in
extensive talks with Saudi Arabia about nuclear energy. I appreciate
that five of my Republican colleagues have come out in favor of
suspending these talks, and, of course, that is the right thing to do.
Fourth, I will work with a bipartisan group of my colleagues to limit
the sale of weapons to the Saudi military. This is our leverage. This
is our leverage to ensure that this investigation is completed; to
ensure that these sanctions are implemented and followed; to ensure
that this never happens again; and also to send a message to the rest
of the world--all of the authoritarian regimes who are watching what
happens here--that you don't do this to journalists for American
newspapers, that you don't do this to American residents who are simply
going back to get their marriage completed.
I previously voted against arms sales to Saudi Arabia, and I will
continue to oppose the sale of certain weapons--particularly offensive
weapons--to the Kingdom.
The Saudi Armed Forces are so reliant on U.S. military equipment that
this argument that they are going to immediately shift to Russia and
Chinese suppliers--that would be extremely difficult. So we should
exert the leverage that we have now.
There is no question that the United States and Saudi Arabia have
common interests in the region and that for many, many years, Saudi
Arabia has been our partner. But partnership doesn't require
sacrificing our values in exchange for promises of arms sales, oil, or
other financial gain. We must be able to cooperate with our partners in
the region, while at the same time making clear that we will not
overlook human rights abuses or the suppression of peaceful dissent.
The recent actions of the Crown Prince, who many hoped would be a
forward-looking reformer, have raised serious questions about our
relationship with our partner Saudi Arabia. From expelling the Canadian
Ambassador because of a tweet, to the suppression and murder of
political dissidents, to what happened with Mr. Khashoggi, to
ruthlessly pursuing a war that has resulted in countless civilian
casualties in Yemen--the brazen actions of the Saudi leadership must be
The ongoing war in Yemen has created one of the world's worst
humanitarian catastrophes that will impact the safety, security, and
stability of the country for decades to come. All you have to do is
look at the photos of those little children starving to know that this
While I support the administration's recent decision to suspend U.S.
aerial refueling for the Saudi coalition, I am concerned that the
administration lacks a comprehensive strategy for ending the conflict,
including effectively countering Iranian influence. I believe it is
very important, by the way, that we put this suspension into law.
I supported a resolution that would have ended U.S. support for the
Saudi-led coalition military action in Yemen. I supported that when we
voted on it last time and voted for the McCain National Defense
Authorization Act, which included a provision that prevented the U.S.
military from supporting the Saudi-led coalition's operations unless
Saudi Arabia takes steps to alleviate the humanitarian crisis and end
the war in Yemen.
I also support the comprehensive, bipartisan legislation introduced
by my colleagues to ensure effective oversight of the U.S. policy on
Yemen and demand meaningful accountability for the murder of Mr.
Khashoggi. Provisions of this legislation, including the suspension of
weapons sales to Saudi Arabia, imposition of mandatory sanctions on
people involved in the death of Mr. Khashoggi, and a prohibition on
U.S. refueling of the Saudi coalition aircraft engaged in the civil
war, are very important.
Our response to this murder and the Saudi regime's ruthless
suppression of dissent will serve as a lesson to other nations that
would do the same.
I have really appreciated the Presiding Officer, Senator Flake,
standing up for the freedom of the press. Mr. Khashoggi was a
journalist. He was simply doing his job. He was doing it with grace. He
did it all over the world. And he loved his home country, and look what
happened to him.
We must demonstrate that it is unacceptable to suppress, to imprison,
and to violently target peaceful opponents of any regime or reporters
and that the United States will always defend human rights and hold
anyone guilty of violating those rights accountable. Strong, bipartisan
congressional leadership will help us demonstrate our resolve. I urge
my colleagues to join me in supporting our colleagues' resolution that
will come before the Senate, I hope, later this week.