Coverage on the death of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi has focused on President Trump’s refusal to hold Saudi Arabia accountable, but very few media outlets have shed light on the lawmakers on Capitol Hill who are quietly pushing for answers from the Middle Eastern nation.
On Tuesday, the White House issued a statement essentially absolving Mohammed bin Salman, the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, of the murder of Khashoggi. This statement contradicted the CIA’s assessment of the situation, which concluded that bin Salman had ordered the assassination.
The President’s response drew sharp criticism from both domestic and international news outlets. Fred Ryan, CEO of the Washington Post and Khashoggi’s employer, issued a statement referring to the President’s response as “a betrayal of long-established American values” and a “failure of leadership.”
Al Jazeera accused Trump of “shielding” the Crown Prince and compared the two leaders’ relationship to the President’s annual pardoning of the Thanksgiving turkey. One Jordanian outlet depicted Trump washing the blood off bin Salman’s hands.
— A Crafty Arab (@acraftyarab) November 21, 2018
Trump’s main defense was the need to protect Saudi Arabia’s $450 billion investment in the United States. This prompted a discussion in the media over the ethics of the two countries’ economic alliance, followed by a string of fact checks of the value of the investment in general.
However, the implications of the Khashoggi’s murder extend beyond oil investments and into Yemen’s civil war, shifting American priorities in the Middle East from economics to ethics.
In the Senate, a bipartisan effort led by Senators Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Todd Young (R-IN) has used Khashoggi’s murder as an opportunity to draft legislation that would implement a blanket ban on arms sales to Saudi Arabia in order to curb violence against civilians in the Yemen Civil War, a conflict largely propagated by American weapons.
The bill would also force the President to issue a statement fully analyzing the Crown Prince’s culpability of the killing. Trump left this matter as an open question in his current official position toward Saudi Arabia.
Congress will consider all of the tools at our disposal to respond, including requiring by law a determination on the role of MbS.
— Senator Bob Corker (@SenBobCorker) November 20, 2018
In the House, with an incoming Democratic majority, several representatives are looking to reevaluate the U.S.-Saudi alliance. Representative Adam Schiff (D-CA), the soon-to-be Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, has vowed to investigate the murder and the President’s response. Schiff also intends to look into the Trump family’s ties to the Kingdom.
Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff says after being briefed on the slaying of Jamal Khashoggi that President Trump hasn't been telling the truth about the journalist's murder https://t.co/aCP5rezLux pic.twitter.com/sxPxI5N5WZ
— CNN (@CNN) November 25, 2018
Representative Brad Sherman (D-CA) is seeking to extend potential repercussions beyond the ban of arm sales. He proposed the “No Nuclear Weapons for Saudi Arabia Act of 2018,” which would hinder Saudi Arabia’s chances of obtaining nuclear weapon capabilities.
Sherman stated, “If powerful elements in Riyadh can’t be trusted with a bone saw, you can’t trust them with a nuclear weapon.”