- Leah Millis/Reuters
- Nearly every GOP member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Thursday called on Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to provide a full investigation into the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
- This comes after President Donald Trump declined to respond to a request for a report on Khashoggi from a bipartisan group of lawmakers who invoked a human-rights law known as the Global Magnitsky Act.
- Khashoggi was killed in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, on October 2 by agents of the Saudi government and Trump has faced bipartisan criticism over how he’s responded to the killing.
In a stunning rebuke of President Donald Trump, nearly all the Republican members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee asked Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Thursday provide a full investigation into the death of the Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
The request came after lawmakers on the committee invoked the Global Magnitsky Act of 2016 in October in response to Khashoggi’s killing, which gave the president 120 days to provide Congress with a report on his findings and how he plans to react.
Last Friday, the White House signaled Trump would ignore the bipartisan request.
The Global Magnitsky Act is an Obama-era law named for Sergei Magnitsky, a Russian lawyer who died in prison under suspicious circumstances after uncovering a $230 million tax-fraud scheme that implicated high level Kremlin officials. The law expanded on previous legislation, the Magnitsky Act, which blacklists Russians accused of human-rights violations.
The updated law offers a path for the US to impose sanctions on people who’ve committed gross human-rights violations outside of Russia. It also includes a requirement for the president to respond within 120 days to requests from the heads of a number of congressional committees with a report on whether a “foreign person” has committed human-rights violations and if sanctions will be imposed.
The US imposed sanctions last November on 17 Saudi nationals believed to be linked to Khashoggi’s brutal killing. The White House also said on February 8 that Trump had determined that those individuals were indeed responsible for the journalist’s death.
When Trump declined Congress’s bipartisan request to investigate Khashoggi’s death, the White House contended that Trump had sufficiently responded to the killing by sanctioning those accused of taking part in it.
The White House also said Trump has the “discretion” to “decline” committee requests when “appropriate.” A spokesman for Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez, the ranking member on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, subsequently suggested Trump was breaking the law by not honoring the request.
In Thursday’s letter, several GOP senators on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said that while they appreciated Trump’s actions thus far, “we ask that you update Congress, as requested in the Committee letter dated October 10, 2018 and required by the Global Magnitsky Act, on the President’s determination with respect to any foreign person responsible for the Khashoggi murder, including with respect to the highest ranking officials in the Government of Saudi Arabia.”
The letter was signed by 10 Republican senators: committee chairman Jim Risch, Sens. Marco Rubio, Ron Johnson, Cory Gardner, Lindsey Graham, Johnny Isakson, John Barrasso, Rob Portman, Todd Young, and Ted Cruz.
— Nick Schifrin (@nickschifrin) February 14, 2019
Khashoggi was killed in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, on October 2 by agents of the Saudi government. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia, is widely suspected to have ordered the hit on Khashoggi. The Saudi government has sought to distance Prince Mohammed from the killing, and it’s narrative on the incident has shifted multiple times.
Khashoggi was living in the US and a columnist for The Washington Post at the time of his killing, but he’d once had a close relationship with the Saudi royal family. He fled to the US in June 2017 after he fell out with the kingdom’s rulers over his critical reporting.
Despite the fact the CIA has reportedly concluded Prince Mohammed ordered Khashoggi’s killing, Trump has so far stood by the Saudi leader.
The president’s overall reaction to the killing has at times threatened to alienate him from top Republican lawmakers, and he faces ongoing challenges to his foreign policy agenda in Congress linked to anger over Khashoggi’s untimely death.