Published: Sun, December 02, 2018
Global Media | By Garry Long

Pompeo, Mattis defend Saudis as lawmakers consider vote

Pompeo, Mattis defend Saudis as lawmakers consider vote

Senior members of President Donald Trump's Cabinet urged US senators Wednesday not to downgrade ties with Saudi Arabia over the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, saying it would harm national security and threaten Middle East stability.

An all-Senate briefing by Defense Secretary James Mattis and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo earlier on Wednesday about Yemen and Saudi Arabia did little to convince senators to oppose the measure and instead seemed only to have pushed members to support it.

"Lawmakers in the appropriate committee should be able to get access to all of that", Rogers said, agreeing with host Alisyn Camerota that the administration didn't "want to hear all the evidence" out of misplaced loyalty to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

However, Pompeo and Mattis did not seem to sway leading Senate foreign policy voices, including some of Trump's fellow Republicans, who said they believed taking no action would send a more unsafe message to the world.

New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez, the top Democrat on the Foreign Relations panel, said he would switch his vote and support the resolution.

The Canadian sanctions target individuals alleged to be members of a Saudi hit squad that carried out the killing, as well as close aides of the prince. The administration "did not win any votes", he said, and there was a lot of frustration that CIA Director Gina Haspel did not attend.

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Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., called the briefing "inadequate", adding that he will not be a reliable Republican vote on any key legislation until the Central Intelligence Agency briefs the members.

"I changed my mind because I'm pissed", Graham said.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said on Thursday the trilateral meeting with Prime Minister Modi will be held towards the end of the Trump-Abe talks.

He said CIA had already briefed the Senate intelligence committee and Senate leaders and "will continue to provide updates on this important matter to policymakers and Congress".

Pompeo said USA involvement in the Yemen conflict is central to the Trump administration's broader goal of containing Iranian influence in the Middle East. "Having said that, the way the administration has handled the Saudi Arabia is just not acceptable". His language was blunt in a Wall Street Journal article, writing that Khashoggi's murder "has heightened the Capitol Hill caterwauling and media pile-on. But the kingdom is a powerful force for Mideast stability", Mr Pompeo said that "degrading US-Saudi ties would be a grave mistake for the national security of the US and its allies".

Those denials have been echoed by US President Donald Trump, who last week pledged to stand by MBS and his father, Saudi King Salman, despite the killing.

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