By Michael Hernandez
Congressional pressure is continuing to mount Monday for the U.S. to impose significant consequences on Riyadh over the disappearance of missing Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi.
The U.S. resident and Washington Post columnist was last seen Oct. 2 when he entered the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul.
Senator Dick Durbin, the Senate’s second-highest ranking Democrat, called for the expulsion of Saudi Arabia’s Washington envoy — Prince Khalid bin Salman — because the matter.
“The only person on Earth outside of the Saudi kingdom who appears to accept the Saudi ‘investigation’ is President Trump,” Durbin wrote Sunday on Twitter. “We should expel the Saudi Ambassador to the U.S. until there is a completion of a third party investigation into the kidnap and murder of Jamal Khashoggi.”
After denying knowledge of Khashoggi’s whereabouts for two weeks, Saudi Arabia on Saturday claimed Khashoggi died during a fight inside its Istanbul consulate.
His body has not been recovered, nor has Saudi Arabia explained its shifting narrative on Khashoggi’s disappearance.
During remarks to Fox News on Sunday, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir claimed Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman was not aware of what he called a “rogue operation,” mirroring a previously reported plan the Saudis were mulling to explain Khashoggi’s disappearance.
“This was an operation where individuals ended up exceeding the responsibilities they had and they made the mistake when they killed Jamal Khashoggi in the consulate and they tried to cover up for it,” he said.
While Trump hailed Saudi Arabia’s Saturday explanation as “a great first step,” Congress has been markedly more skeptical amid growing momentum among a bipartisan group in the House of Representatives and the Senate to punish the Saudi government.
Lawmakers are seeking a range of retaliations from targeted sanctions to an end to U.S. support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen and a possible arms embargo of the Kingdom.
Four key senators triggered an investigation Oct. 10 into Khashoggi’s disappearance under a U.S. law intended to hold human rights abusers to account.
In a letter to Trump, the minority and majority leaders of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the leaders of the Senate Appropriations subcommittee responsible for the State Department called on Trump to determine whether imposing sanctions “with respect to any foreign person responsible for such a violation related to Mr. Khashoggi” is warranted.
Trump has 120 days from the date of the letter to issue his determination.