Tuesday February 19, 2019
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The Khashoggi Killing Creates Differences Between Trump And U.S. Lawmakers

Numerous U.S. lawmakers have said they intend to push for U.S. sanctions against Saudi Arabia because of Khashoggi's killing.

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A man holds a poster showing images of Saudi Crown Prince Muhammed bin Salman (L), dubbed "assassin," and of journalist writer Jamal Khashoggi, dubbed "martyr," during a prayer service for Khashoggi, in Istanbul, Turkey. VOA

Several U.S. lawmakers broke with President Donald Trump on Sunday, disagreeing with his assessment that it was uncertain whether Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was involved in the killing of a Saudi dissident journalist inside Riyadh’s consulate in Istanbul.

Congressman Adam Schiff, set to become the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee when Democrats take control of the House in January, told CNN, “I have been briefed by the CIA and, while I cannot discuss the contents of the briefing in any way, I can say that I think the president is being dishonest with the American people.”

Schiff said, “It causes our standing in the world to plummet, it telegraphs to despots around the world that they can murder people with impunity, and that this president will have their back as long as they praise him.”

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Rep. Adam Schiff, D-California, ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, speaks with reporters after a news conference in Washington. VOA

Trump last week said the U.S. would stand by Saudi Arabia and that he did not know whether the crown prince had knowledge in advance of the killing of Jamal Khashoggi. While living in the U.S., Khashoggi wrote opinion columns for The Washington Post that were critical of Mohammed bin Salman and Riyadh’s involvement in the long-running Yemen conflict.

“It could very well be that the crown prince had knowledge of this tragic event – maybe he did and maybe he didn’t!” Trump said.

Trump concluded, “In any case, our relationship is with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. They have been a great ally in our very important fight against Iran. 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.”

Saudi Arabia has indicted 11 of its agents in connection with the Khashoggi killing, with five of them facing the death penalty if convicted.

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U.S. President Donald Trump talks to reporters about the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Turkey during a bill-signing ceremony at the White House in Washington. VOA

Senator Mike Lee, a Utah Republican, also disputed Trump’s equivocation on whether the crown prince had knowledgeable of the Khashoggi killing.

“I disagree with the president’s assessment,” Lee told NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “It’s inconsistent with the intelligence I’ve seen,” which implicates the crown prince.

Human rights factor

Another Republican, Senator Joni Ernst of Iowa, said on CNN, “I do think we need to look into this further.” She said that while Saudi Arabia is a strategic partner of the U.S., “We also are a very strong nation when it comes to human rights, when it comes to the rule of law. And if there are indicators that the [crown] prince was involved in this murder, then we need to absolutely consider further action.”

Ernst said she did not think Trump was exonerating Saudi Arabia, but added, “I think at such a time when it becomes necessary, the president also needs to speak directly to the Saudis and say enough is enough.”

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Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Nebraska, returns to a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing after a break on Capitol Hill in Washington. VOA

Republican Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska, a frequent Trump critic, said on Fox News, “Making the realist case (about the need for a U.S.-Saudi alliance) is a different thing than being so weak that we failed to tell the truth.” He said Mohammed bin Salman “contributed to murdering somebody abroad and it is not strength to sort of mumble past that. Strength is telling the truth even when it’s hard.”

Numerous U.S. lawmakers have said they intend to push for U.S. sanctions against Saudi Arabia because of Khashoggi’s killing. Trump, in his statement last week, said, “I will consider whatever ideas are presented to me, but only if they are consistent with the absolute security and safety of America.”

Also Read: Khashoggi Report To Be Reviewed By U.S. President Donald Trump Soon

He said, “After the United States, Saudi Arabia is the largest oil producing nation in the world. They have worked closely with us and have been very responsive to my requests to keeping oil prices at reasonable levels – so important for the world. As president of the United States I intend to ensure that, in a very dangerous world, America is pursuing its national interests and vigorously contesting countries that wish to do us harm. Very simply it is called America First!”. (VOA)

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White House in Support of Trump’s National Emergency Declaration

Trump said he declared the national emergency because he was unhappy with the amount of money Congress authorized.

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President Donald Trump speaks at the White House in Washington, to declare a national emergency in order to build a wall along the southern border, Feb. 15, 2019. VOA

The White House is defending President Donald Trump’s declaration of a national emergency at the U.S.-Mexico border as multiple states prepare to file legal challenges and Democrats in Congress plan to vote their disapproval.

“He could choose to ignore this crisis, but he chose not to,” Trump adviser Stephen Miller, an immigration hardliner, told Fox News Sunday.

Miller assailed former Republican President George W. Bush for what he called an “astonishing betrayal” of the U.S. nearly two decades ago when four times as many immigrants were illegally entering the United States as now. But Miller said the “bottom line” is that “you cannot conceive of a strong nation without a secure border.”

He said Trump’s action is “defending our own borders.” He illegal immigration “is a threat in our country.”

Miller said Trump’s actions were justified under a 1976 law giving presidents authority to declare national emergencies, although none of the 59 declared since then has involved instances when a president has attempted to override congressional refusal to approve funding for a specific proposal.

Trump declared the national emergency on Friday to circumvent Congress, which had refused his request for $5.7 billion in wall funding, even as it approved $1.375 billion for barriers along about 90 kilometers of the 3,200-kilometer border. Trump plans to tap more than $8 billion in government funds authorized for other projects the build the wall, although lawsuits challenging the action are already being filed to block his transfer of money.

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Border Patrol agent Vincent Pirro looks on near a border wall that separates the cities of Tijuana, Mexico, and San Diego, Feb. 5, 2019, in San Diego. VOA

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra told ABC’s This Week that his state and others would “definitely and imminently” file a legal challenge, arguing that people all over the United States would be harmed by Trump’s move because the diverted money would not be spent on needed services.

“Typically our presidents have focused on issues where the national interests are clearly at stake,” Becerra said about previous national emergency declarations. “The national interests are not at stake here. We have the lowest level of entries into the country by those who don’t have permission than we’ve had in some 20 years.”

Acting U.S. Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan said he thinks he has “a lot of discretion” in deciding which funds previously allocated for defense needs can instead be used to build a border wall. “You can trust the numbers in terms of the potential. Then you gotta marry it up with where the money would be spent.” But he said money designated for military housing would not be spent on the wall.

Trump said he declared the national emergency because he was unhappy with the amount of money Congress authorized.

“I want to do it faster,” he said. “I could do the wall over a longer period of time. I didn’t need to do this. But I’d rather do it much faster.”

Trump’s staunchest critics, including Democrats who have announced they are running against him next year and other lawmakers, have attacked his national emergency declaration as an end-run around the constitutional provision that U.S. funding authorization lies with Congress and noted that he said that he did not need to take action.

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Trump declared the national emergency on Friday to circumvent Congress, which had refused his request for $5.7 billion in wall funding. VOA

Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, told CNN, “If we give away, if we surrender the power of the purse… there will be little check and no balance left. It’ll not be a separation of powers anymore, just a separation of parties.”

ALSO READ: US-Taliban Meeting Cancelled, 14 Members on “The US and UN Blacklist”

Journalist Bob Woodward, who chronicled the first year of the Trump presidency in a best-selling book called “Fear,” told Fox News he believes Trump made the national emergency declaration because “he looks strong. He looks tough to lots of people.”

Trump centered much of his successful 2016 campaign for the White House on a vow to build the wall and make Mexico pay for it. He long since abandoned direct payment from Mexico, when its leaders rejected the idea, and instead sought congressional approval of the U.S. taxpayer funding. (VOA)