Trump Is Covering for Saudi Arabia’s Murder of Jamal Khashoggi

UPDATE, 11/28/18: The Senate has voted 63-37 to move forward on a resolution that would end US support for Saudi Arabai's atrocities in Yemen. The Senate will move forward with the next step next week; we'll keep you updated on further developments as they arise.


Yet again, Trump is siding with authoritarians over Americans.

It is clear by now that American resident, Washington Post contributor, and frequent Saudi critic Jamal Khashoggi was murdered in a Saudi consulate in Turkey, based on orders from the highest levels of the Saudi government.

It is also clear that Trump has no plans to meaningfully hold the Saudis accountable. Over and over, he and his administration keep echoing Saudi talking points and participating in the cover-up. Recently, after tremendous pressure, Trump has started using stronger language against the Saudis and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced targeted sanctions against mostly low-level Saudi officials. But this is far too little, and much too late.

It gets even worse. In a complicated turn of events, Trump is reportedly willing to send an American resident to face certain torture or death just to help cover for the Saudis. Trump seems to think that if he extradites Turkish cleric and dissident (and U.S. resident) Fethullah Gulen to Turkey (where he will almost certainly face torture or death), then the Turkish government will stop pressuring the Saudis for justice in Khashoggi’s murder.

Confused? Here’s how one reporter succinctly explained it: “The White House considered shipping a U.S. green card holder to likely torture and death in exchange for a cover-up of the murder of another U.S. green card holder to preserve a weapons deal with a country that spends money at the president's hotel.”

There’s now a pattern: from Vladimir Putin to Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Trump would rather stand with hostile foreign regimes than the American people.

It’s now on Congress to force Trump’s hand. Here’s what you need to know.

Why won’t Trump hold the Saudis accountable?

It shouldn’t be that hard for Trump to denounce Saudi Arabia’s murder of an American resident and take steps to actually hold them accountable - so why isn’t he doing that?

As usual, Trump has given us clues by saying the quiet part out loud. He’s spoken openly about the billions of dollars the Saudis spend on American weapons, padding defense contractors’ pockets. (By the way: war profiteering long predates the Trump administration, Trump just admits it bluntly).

But there’s more. Trump and his war cabinet are obsessed with “countering Iran” (read: building up to a new war) and consider Saudi Arabia an important ally in doing that.

Additionally, as is so often the case with Trump, his foreign policy is guided by his own corruption and conflicts of interest. The Saudis pour millions into Trump’s hotel business, and he has stated openly that these business entanglements are a major reason he doesn’t want to criticize them.

What should Congress do about it?

It’s clear that Trump will continue to cover for the Saudis. But Congress shouldn’t cover for Trump. Since Trump won’t act, our elected representatives must hold the Saudis accountable for the murder of Jamal Khashoggi.

Investigations and sanctions aren’t enough. While it’s a positive development that there is bipartisan support for sanctions on Saudis, the biggest point of leverage that the United States has with the Saudis is military support. The Saudis rely on the United States in order to acquire war weapons, and to carry out the disastrous war in Yemen.

Bottom line: the Saudi government murdered a U.S. resident in order to silence him. The Saudi government depends heavily on U.S. military assistance. If Congress actually wants to impose real consequences for this crime, they must use this leverage. The best opportunity to hold the Saudis accountable is to withdraw U.S. support for their war crimes in Yemen.

What exactly is the war in Yemen? How is the U.S. involved?

It’s a complicated situation but, in short: Yemen is involved in a civil war, with Saudi Arabia leading a coalition to support one side, and Iran supporting the other side. Many experts characterize it as a proxy war between Iran and Saudi Arabia.

The United States supports the Saudi-led coalition. This has mainly involved providing refueling services for airstrikes, and sharing intelligence for targeting. This support is essential to the continuation of Saudi’s air campaign that continues to target civilian areas and vital civilian infrastructure in violation of international law.

Feeling the pressure, the Trump administration announced they would stop the refueling services. But that’s not enough - the U.S. needs to stop ALL participation in the Yemen war and all arms sales to the Saudis.

The Yemen civil war has created the largest humanitarian crisis in the world. Yemen was already the poorest country in the Middle East, and the war has only made a bad situation worse. It’s the world’s largest humanitarian crisis, and the United States is complicit.

This war didn’t start with Trump—the United States has been helping the Saudis commit war crimes in Yemen for years now. But Trump’s administration has doubled down by increasing the U.S. military’s role in the Yemen conflict and increasing arms sales to Saudi Arabia.

There’s another huge factor here: this war is not only terrible policy, it’s completely unconstitutional. Congress, not the President, is supposed to decide where we go to war and when. And Congress has never authorized this war.

There are many reasons for Congress to put a stop to this once and for all. After the Khashoggi murder and Saudi/Trump cover-up, the stakes just became that much higher.

The Saudis likely couldn’t commit these war crimes without help from the United States. Thus, this is the biggest point of leverage that the U.S. government has over the Saudis, and they should use it.

Tell Your MoCs: Hold Saudi Arabia Accountable. Stop Helping Them Commit War Crimes in Yemen.

In the House, the legislation is H. Con. Res. 138, led by Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA), Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC) and many others. For the Senate, it’s S. J. Res. 54, led by Senators Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Chris Murphy (D-CT) and Mike Lee (R-UT).

The sponsors of the House resolution recently tried to force a floor vote, but Paul Ryan and the House GOP blocked them.

The Senate is expected to take a vote on the floor soon after Thanksgiving.

Take a look at the resolutions to see if your MoCs have co-sponsored them.

  • If they haven’t, urge them to co-sponsor immediately and pledge to support the resolution when it comes to the floor, as a way to hold the Saudis accountable for Khashoggi’s murder.

  • If your MoCs have already co-sponsored, that’s great! Be sure to thank them, and ask them to make a public statement reiterating the importance of withdrawing U.S. support for this war, given the need to hold the Saudis accountable.

Checks and balances are meaningless if Congress doesn’t exercise them. It is essential now for the United States to re-assess its unconditional support for Saudi Arabia, and this is the best way to send a strong message to the Saudis (and to Trump) that the U.S. will no longer be complicit in Saudi crimes.