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

Saudi Government.

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

confronted head-on.

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

is wrong.

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.