Opposition to President Donald Trump’s Saudi Arabia policy and use of executive power is building in Congress, where senators have introduced more legislation aimed at blocking the sale of weapons to the kingdom.
Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut, a Democrat, and Sen. Todd Young of Indiana, a Republican, said in a statement Sunday they hope to force a vote on U.S. security assistance to Saudi Arabia, including arms sales, after a review of the kingdom’s human rights record.
Anger has been mounting in Congress for months over the Trump administration’s close ties to the Saudis, fueled by high civilian casualties in the Saudi-led war in Yemen — a military campaign the U.S. is assisting — and the killing of U.S.-based columnist Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi agents. Tensions were further inflamed when Trump used an emergency declaration in May to sell the kingdom weapons that Congress had previously placed on hold.
The bill the senators are introducing Monday draws on a provision in the Foreign Assistance Act that allows for congressional review. The act allows Congress to vote to request information about a country’s human rights practices. After receiving the information, Congress can then vote on ending or restricting security assistance.
“Congress needs to change how we do business with the Kingdom. The process we are setting in motion will allow Congress to weigh in on the totality of our security relationship with Saudi Arabia, not just one arms sale, and restore Congress’s role in foreign policy making,” Murphy said in a statement.
This move follows the introduction of 22 bipartisan resolutions on Wednesday that aim to block the $8.1 billion arms sale to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates that bypassed congressional review last month.
“Our arms sales to Saudi Arabia demand Congressional oversight. This bipartisan resolution simply asks the Secretary of State to report on some basic questions before moving forward with them,” said Young, who like Murphy has long been an opponent of U.S. involvement in the war in Yemen.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the sales were necessary to counter “the malign influence of the government of Iran throughout the Middle East region.” Citing unspecified intelligence, U.S. officials have said the threat from Iran has increased in recent weeks.
Some of the weapons could be delivered to Saudi Arabia later this year, while other arms will not ship for another year or more. The sale includes precision guided munitions, other bombs and ammunition and aircraft maintenance support.
It is unclear if Murphy and Young’s resolution would pass the Republican-controlled Senate before moving on to the House.
The Senate voted Wednesday to end U.S. support for the Saudi Arabian-led coalition’s war in Yemen, bringing Congress one step closer to a unprecedented rebuke of President Donald Trump’s foreign policy.
Lawmakers have never before invoked the decades-old War Powers Resolution to stop a foreign conflict, but they are poised to do just that in the bid to cut off U.S. support for a war that has triggered a humanitarian catastrophe.
The vote puts Congress on a collision course with Trump, who has already threatened to veto the resolution, which the White House says raises “serious constitutional concerns.”
The measure was co-sponsored by Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Sen. Mike Lee, R- Utah. Next, it will move to the Democratic-controlled House, where it is expected to pass.
The resolution passed by a vote of 54 to 46, with seven Republicans breaking with Trump to back the resolution: Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, Steve Daines of Montana, Mike Lee of Utah, Jerry Moran of Kansas, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Rand Paul of Kentucky and Todd Young of Indiana.
“The bottom line is that the United States should not be supporting a catastrophic war led by a despotic regime with an irresponsible foreign policy,” Sanders said on Wednesday from the Senate floor. He said a vote in favor of the measure would “begin the process of reclaiming our constitutional authority by ending United States involvement in a war that has not been authorized by Congress and is unconstitutional.”
In its statement threatening a veto, the White House argued the premise of the resolution is flawed and that it would undermine the fight against extremism. U.S. support for the Saudis does not constitute engaging in “hostilities,” the statement said, and the Yemen resolution “seeks to override the president’s determination as commander in chief.”
“By defining ‘hostilities’ to include defense cooperation such as aerial refueling,” the White House statement said, the Yemen resolution could also “establish bad precedent for future legislation.”
Trump’s support for Saudi Arabia has been a point of tension with Congress since the killing of U.S.-based journalist Jamal Khashoggi last year. Lawmakers from both parties have criticized Trump for not condemning Saudi Arabia strongly enough for the killing.
Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., addressed those tensions when he urged his colleagues to oppose the measure.
“We should not use this specific vote on a specific policy decision as some proxy for all the Senate’s broad feelings about foreign affairs. Concerns about Saudi human rights issues should be directly addressed with the administration and with Saudi officials,” McConnell said from the Senate floor.
McConnell argued the Yemen resolution “will not enhance America’s diplomatic leverage” and will make it more difficult for the U.S. to help end the conflict in Yemen and minimize civilian casualties.
Sen. James Risch, R-Idaho, who chairs the Foreign Relations Committee, argued that U.S. support for the Saudi-led coalition helps facilitate peace talks and withdrawing from the conflict would delay an eventual political settlement.
“We need to stay engaged (in Yemen) with the limited engagement we’ve had,” Risch said.
A similar resolution to end support for the Yemen war passed the Senate in December, but it was not taken up by the then Republican-controlled House.
Approaching its fifth year, the war in Yemen has killed thousands and left millions on the brink of starvation, creating what the United Nations called the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., said before the vote that the resolution “will be seen as a message to the Saudis that they need to clean up their act.”
“We are made weaker in the eyes of the world when we willingly participate in war crimes, when we allow our partners to engage in the slaughter of innocents,” Murphy said.
Senators voted Thursday to recommend that the U.S. end its assistance to Saudi Arabia for the war in Yemen and put the blame for the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi squarely on Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, in a direct challenge to both the longtime Middle East ally and President Donald Trump’s handling of the relationship.
The succession of bipartisan votes came two months after the Saudi journalist’s slaying at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul and after Trump persistently equivocated over who was responsible. U.S. intelligence officials concluded that bin Salman must have at least known of the plot, but Trump has repeatedly praised the kingdom.
Senators made clear where they put the blame. The resolution, passed by unanimous agreement, says the Senate believes the crown prince is “responsible for the murder” and calls for the Saudi Arabian government to “ensure appropriate accountability.”
Senators voted 56-41 to recommend that the U.S. stop supporting the war in Yemen, a direct affront to the administration’s war powers abilities.
The floor action brought an unusual show of bipartisan resolve in the Senate over U.S foreign policy, even amid an uncertain outcome as the measures move to the House.
Frustration with the crown prince and the White House prompted several Republicans to support the Yemen resolution as a way to rebuke the longtime ally. Seven Republicans and all Democrats voted for it. Some already had concerns about the war, which human rights groups say is wreaking havoc on the country and subjecting civilians, many of them children, to deadly disease and indiscriminate bombing.
Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who co-sponsored the Yemen resolution with Republican Sen. Mike Lee of Utah, called the vote a “historic moment.”
Lee said Khashoggi’s death focused attention “on the fact that we have been led into this civil war in Yemen half a world away” and “we’ve done so following the lead” of Saudi Arabia.
“What the Khashoggi event did was to demonstrate, hey, maybe this isn’t a regime that we should just be following that eagerly into battle,” Lee said.
The resolution condemning Saudi Arabia for Khashoggi’s slaying was introduced by Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Both Republicans opposed the Yemen resolution and voted against it.
McConnell said senators have grave concerns about Khashoggi’s killing, but “we also want to preserve a 70-year partnership between the United States and Saudi Arabia, and we want to ensure it continues to serve American interests and stabilizes a dangerous and critical region.”
But McConnell urged colleagues to back the resolution on Khashoggi’s death. Its passage, he said, provided “a clear and unambiguous message about how we feel about what happened to this journalist.”
The resolution also calls the war in Yemen a “humanitarian crisis” and demands that all parties seek an immediate cease-fire.
It appears unlikely that the House would be willing to consider the Yemen resolution. House leaders added a provision to an unrelated House rule that would make it more difficult for lawmakers there to call it up.
CIA Director Gina Haspel briefed House leaders on the Khashoggi slaying on Wednesday, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis briefed the full House on Thursday.
Pompeo and Mattis briefed the Senate last month and told senators there was “no direct reporting” or “smoking gun” to connect the crown prince to Khashoggi’s death at the Saudi consulate. But a smaller group of senators leaving a separate briefing with Haspel days later said there was “zero chance” the crown prince wasn’t involved.
House Republicans were less eager than their Senate counterparts to criticize Saudi Arabia and the Trump administration. House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., said after Thursday’s briefing that he was waiting to see the outcome of the administration’s ongoing investigation.
Scalise said there had been “discussions” about action before the end of the year but wouldn’t say if GOP leaders would consider Corker’s resolution.
Khashoggi, who had lived in the U.S. and wrote for The Washington Post, had been critical of the Saudi regime. He was killed in what U.S. officials have described as an elaborate plot as he visited the consulate for marriage paperwork.
Saudi prosecutors have said a 15-man team sent to Istanbul killed Khashoggi with tranquilizers and then dismembered his body, which has not been found. Those findings came after Saudi authorities spent weeks denying Khashoggi had been killed in the consulate.
Pressed on a response to the slaying, Trump has been reluctant to condemn the crown prince. He said the United States “intends to remain a steadfast partner” of the country, touted Saudi arms deals worth billions of dollars to the U.S. and thanked the Saudis for plunging oil prices.
The Senate debate came as the United Nations secretary general on Thursday announced that Yemen’s warring sides have agreed to a province-wide cease-fire and withdrawal of troops in Hodeida, a contested Red Sea port city. The agreement came during peace talks in Sweden.
The brutal four-year-old civil war pits the internationally recognized Yemeni government, supported by a Saudi-led coalition, against the Iran-backed rebels known as Houthis.
Sen. Todd Young, R-Ind., who voted for the Yemen resolution, said he’s “absolutely convinced” the Senate’s action is applying pressure on the Saudis. He said that without it “there’s a real possibility that there wouldn’t be negotiations going on right now in Sweden.”
Associated Press writer Laurie Kellman in Washington contributed to this report.
President Donald Trump and Democratic congressional leaders are seeking to avert a partial government shutdown amid a sharp dispute over Trump’s border wall and a lengthy to-do list that includes a major farm bill and a formal rebuke of Saudi Arabia for the slaying of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
Trump is set to confer Tuesday at the White House with House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer ahead of a Dec. 21 deadline to shut down a range of government agencies.
“Republicans still control the House, the Senate and the White House, and they have the power to keep government open,” Pelosi and Schumer said in a joint statement Monday.
“Our country cannot afford a Trump Shutdown,” the Democrats said, adding that Trump “knows full well that his wall proposal does not have the votes to pass the House and Senate and should not be an obstacle to a bipartisan agreement.”
Republican congressional leaders have repeatedly said it’s up to Trump to cut a deal with Democrats, an acknowledgement of their own inability to produce spending bills with Republican votes alone.
That gives Democrats some momentum heading into the closed-door talks, which also could veer into Trump’s request for emergency funding for deadly wildfires in California and a Republican-sponsored bill to extend expiring tax breaks and delay some health care taxes.
Before lawmakers adjourn for the year they also may consider a bipartisan criminal justice reform bill, a bill to protect special counsel Robert Mueller and a plan to overhaul the system for handling sexual harassment complaints on Capitol Hill.
By far the biggest unresolved issue is the border wall. Trump wants the next funding package to include at least $5 billion for it, an idea Democrats have flatly rejected.
Pelosi and Schumer have urged Trump to support a bill that includes a half-dozen government funding bills largely agreed upon by lawmakers, along with a separate measure that funds the Department of Homeland Security at current levels through Sept. 30. The homeland bill includes about $1.3 billion for fencing and other security measures at the border.
If Trump does not agree to that, Democrats will likely urge a continuing resolution that funds all the remaining appropriations bills at current levels through Sept. 30, an aide said. The aide was not authorized to discuss strategy by name and requested anonymity.
Trump said Friday that Congress should provide all the money he wants for the wall and called illegal immigration a “threat to the well-being of every American community.”
At an appearance in Kansas City, Missouri, Trump accused Democrats of playing a political game and said it was one he ultimately would win.
“I actually think the politics of what they’re doing is very bad for them,” Trump said of Democrats. “We’re going to very soon find out. Maybe I’m not right. But usually I’m right.”
Pelosi, who is seeking to become House speaker in January, said she and many other Democrats consider the wall “immoral, ineffective and expensive” and noted that Trump promised during the 2016 campaign that Mexico would pay for the wall, an idea Mexico has repeatedly rejected.
Protecting borders “is a responsibility we honor, but we do so by honoring our values as well,” Pelosi said last week.
Schumer said Democrats want to work with Trump to avert a shutdown, but said money for border security should not include the concrete wall Trump has envisioned. Instead, the money should be used for fencing and technology that experts say is appropriate, Schumer said.
“We do not want to let a Trump temper tantrum govern our policies or cause the shutdown of a government, which everyone on both sides of the aisle knows is the wrong idea,” Schumer said. If Trump “wants to shut down the government over Christmas over the wall, that’s his decision,” he said.
Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy, the top Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Committee, said Trump was all that stands between fully funding the government and a shutdown.
“Time and again, President Trump has used the government of the American people as a bargaining chip for his fabricated solution to his manufactured crisis,” Leahy said Monday in a Senate speech.
Trump “wants to score a made-for-reality-TV moment and he doesn’t care how many hardworking Americans will suffer for it,” Leahy said. “This is not about border security. This is about politics, pure and simple.”
But House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., said Democrats were the ones playing politics.
Trump “wants to secure the border. He got elected president on that platform,” Scalise told Fox News Channel.
If there’s a better way to secure the border than the $5 billion plan Trump has laid out, Democrats “need to come with an alternative,” Scalise said Monday. “They can’t come and say they want to shut the government down for no reason because they don’t want border security. They’ll lose that argument with the American people.”
Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard Shelby, R-Ala., said Monday he does not believe Trump or Democrats want to shut the government down.
“When I was with him the indication was he didn’t want to shut the government down, but he did want his wall,” Shelby said.
AP Congressional Correspondent Lisa Mascaro contributed to this report.
Defying President Donald Trump, senators sent a strong signal that they want to punish Saudi Arabia for its role in the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. By a bipartisan 63-37 vote, the Senate opted to move forward with legislation calling for an end to U.S. involvement in the Saudi-led war in Yemen.
The vote on Wednesday was a rebuke not only to Saudi Arabia but also to Trump’s administration, which has made clear it does not want to torpedo the long-standing U.S. relationship with Riyadh over the killing.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis both came to Capitol Hill to urgently lobby against the resolution, which would call for an end to U.S. military assistance for the conflict that human rights advocates say is wreaking havoc on Yemen and subjecting civilians to indiscriminate bombing.
The vote showed a significant number of Republicans were willing to break with Trump to express their deep dissatisfaction with Saudi Arabia and with the U.S. response to Khashoggi’s brutal killing in Turkey last month. U.S. intelligence officials have concluded that the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, must have at least known of the plot, but Trump has equivocated over who was to blame.
Khashoggi, who lived in the U.S. and wrote for The Washington Post, was publicly critical of the Saudi crown prince. He was killed in what U.S. officials have described as an elaborate plot at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, which he had visited for marriage paperwork.
Echoing Trump’s public comments on the killing, Pompeo said after Wednesday’s briefing with senators that there was “no direct reporting” connecting the crown prince to the murder, and Mattis said there was “no smoking gun” making the connection.
Pompeo argued that the war in Yemen would be “a hell of a lot worse” if the United States were not involved.
Wednesday’s procedural vote sets up a floor debate on the resolution next week. It would be largely a symbolic move, however, as House Republican leaders have given no indication they would take up the war powers measure before the end of the year — the end of the current Congress.
Several senators said they were angry about the absence of CIA Director Gina Haspel from the pre-vote briefing.
New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, speculated that Haspel didn’t attend because she “would have said with a high degree of confidence that the crown prince of Saudi Arabia was involved in the murder of Jamal Khashoggi.”
And Lindsey Graham, the South Carolina Republican who is often strongly allied with Trump, voted to move forward with the resolution and said he would insist on a briefing from Haspel. He even threatened to withhold his vote on key measures if that didn’t happen and declared, “I’m not going to blow past this.”
CIA press secretary Timothy Barrett said that no one kept Haspel away from the briefing. He said the 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.”
In another explanation, a White House official said Haspel decided not to participate in part because of frustration with lawmakers leaking classified intelligence from such settings. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal matters.
The procedural vote received more Republican support than had been expected after the resolution, sponsored by Republican Sen. Mike Lee of Utah and Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, fell six votes short of passage earlier this year.
Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker, R-Tenn., said in the past he had “laid in the railroad tracks to keep us from doing things that I believe are against our national interest as it relates to Saudi Arabia.” But he said he believes the Senate should “figure out some way for us to send the appropriate message to Saudi Arabia that appropriately displays American values and American national interests.”
He said the crown prince “owns this death. He owns it.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., voted against moving ahead with the resolution but said a day earlier that “some kind of response” was needed from the United States for the Saudis’ role in Khashoggi’s death. On Tuesday, he said that “what obviously happened, as basically certified by the CIA, is completely abhorrent to everything the United States holds dear and stands for in the world.”
Pompeo said U.S. involvement in the Yemen conflict is central to the Trump administration’s broader goal of containing Iranian influence in the Middle East. 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 degrading U.S.-Saudi ties would be a grave mistake for the national security of the U.S. and its allies.”
Trump has said it may never be known who was responsible for the killing, and in public comments — and a long and unusual statement last week — he reinforced the United States’ long-standing alliance with the Saudis. Trump has praised a pending arms deal with the kingdom that he says will provide the U.S. with jobs and lucrative payments, though some outside assessments say the economic benefits are exaggerated.
Associated Press writers Lisa Mascaro, Zeke Miller, Matthew Daly, Kevin Freking, Maria Danilova and Laurie Kellman in Washington contributed to this report.
President Donald Trump is wrong when he suggests global warming can’t be happening if it’s really cold outside.
He points to a “brutal and extended cold blast” in the Eastern U.S. during Thanksgiving week and wonders aloud to his Twitter followers, “Whatever happened to Global Warming?” In fact, he is confusing short-term weather patterns with longer-term climate change. A scientific report put out Friday by his own administration rejects as folly any notion that a particular plunge in temperatures can cast doubt on whether Earth is warming.
Explaining his decision not to punish Saudi Arabia for the killing of a U.S.-based journalist, Trump also exaggerates the value of Saudi investments in the U.S. and expresses thanks to the kingdom — then himself — for spurring a recent decline in oil prices. Those claims are off the mark.
A look at his recent rhetoric, also covering the courts, midterm elections and more.
TRUMP: “So great that oil prices are falling (thank you President T). Add that, which is like a big Tax Cut, to our other good Economic news. Inflation down (are you listening Fed)!” — tweet Sunday.
TRUMP: “Oil prices getting lower. Great! Like a big Tax Cut for America and the World. Enjoy! $54, was just $82. Thank you to Saudi Arabia, but let’s go lower!” — tweet Wednesday.
THE FACTS: Heaping praise on Saudi Arabia, then himself, for lower oil prices is a gross oversimplification. Oil prices, which peaked Oct. 3, have been falling on the realization that U.S. sanctions against Iran would not create a shortage and on fear that slower economic growth internationally will depress energy demand.
Although the U.S. is now the world’s biggest oil producer, Saudi Arabia remains the biggest exporter. As a so-called swing producer with the ability to adjust production up or down relatively quickly, it can indeed influence the price of crude. But the market is far more complex than Trump suggests. Canada is actually the leading source of U.S. oil imports, for example, with Saudi Arabia second.
TRUMP: “This is the coldest weather in the history of the Thanksgiving Day Parade in NYC, and one of the coldest Thanksgivings on record!” — tweet Thursday.
TRUMP: “Brutal and Extended Cold Blast could shatter ALL RECORDS – Whatever happened to Global Warming?” — tweet Wednesday.
THE FACTS: Trump is conflating weather and climate. Weather is like mood, which changes daily. Climate is like personality, which is long term.
The climate is warming, which still allows for record cold spells.
On Friday, the White House produced the National Climate Assessment by scientists from 13 Trump administration agencies and outside scientists. It amounted to a slap in the face for those who question whether climate is changing.
“Climate change is transforming where and how we live and presents growing challenges to human health and quality of life, the economy, and the natural systems that support us,” the report says. It details how global warming from the burning of coal, oil and gas is hurting each region of U.S. and different sectors of the economy. The report said the last few years have smashed U.S. records for damaging weather, already costing nearly $400 billion since 2015, and projects increased deaths and disease.
The White House report swept aside the idea, already discredited, that a particular plunge in temperatures can cast uncertainty on whether Earth is warming. It says more than 90 percent of current warming is caused by humans: “There are no credible alternative human or natural explanations supported by the observational evidence.”
“Over shorter timescales and smaller geographic regions, the influence of natural variability can be larger than the influence of human activity,” the report says. “Over climate timescales of multiple decades, however, global temperature continues to steadily increase.”
In other words, there are cold days in a warming climate.
TRUMP: “Justice Roberts can say what he wants, but the 9th Circuit is a complete & total disaster. It is out of control, has a horrible reputation, is overturned more than any Circuit in the Country, 79%, & is used to get an almost guaranteed result.” — tweet Thursday.
TRUMP: “It would be great if the 9th Circuit was indeed an “independent judiciary,” but if it is why … are so are so many opposing view (on Border and Safety) cases filed there, and why are a vast number of those cases overturned. Please study the numbers, they are shocking.” — tweets Wednesday.
THE FACTS: He’s incorrect in suggesting that rulings by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco are reversed by the Supreme Court more frequently than those of any other federal appeals court. His description of the “shocking” number of overturned cases in the 9th Circuit belies the nature of the appeals system.
When the Supreme Court hears a case, it is more likely to overturn it than not. It does so about two-thirds of the time.
In the last term, the Supreme Court overturned 100 percent of the decisions of the 1st Circuit in Boston, the 3rd Circuit in Philadelphia and the 6th Circuit in Cincinnati. For the 9th Circuit, 86 percent were overturned.
Over the past five years, the Supreme Court overturned a greater percentage of rulings from the 3rd Circuit (92.3 percent), the 6th Circuit (85.1 percent) and the Atlanta-based 11th Circuit (81.8 percent) than from the 9th (77.4 percent), according to The Associated Press’ analysis of statistics from the legal website Scotusblog.
The 9th is by far the largest of the 13 federal courts of appeals, covering Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon and Washington. That means that in raw numbers, more cases are heard and reversed from the 9th year in and year out. But that does not make it the most frequently overturned.
On Monday, U.S. District Judge Jon Tigar, who’d been nominated by Democratic President Barack Obama, temporarily barred the Trump administration from refusing asylum to immigrants who cross the southern border illegally. That set off Trump’s ire. Any appeal is likely to go to the 9th Circuit.
Trump’s tweets took issue with an unusual rebuke from the U.S. chief justice, John Roberts. Roberts spoke up for the independence of the judiciary after Trump branded Tigar an “Obama judge” and said “We do not have Obama judges or Trump judges, Bush judges or Clinton judges.”
TRUMP, on his impact on the midterm elections: “Look at Florida. I went down to Florida. Rick Scott won and he won by a lot. I don’t know what happened to all those votes that disappeared at the very end. And if I didn’t put a spotlight on that election before it got down to the 12,500 votes, he would’ve lost that election, OK? … They would have taken that election away from him.” — interview with “Fox News Sunday,” broadcast on Nov. 18.
THE FACTS: Trump is exaggerating the vote margin of Scott’s victory in Florida’s Senate race as being “a lot.” He’s also suggesting without evidence that his own efforts prevented Democrats from engaging in voter fraud.
Scott, Florida’s Republican governor, edged out Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson in the closest Senate race in the nation in the midterm elections — by a margin of 10,033 votes, or 0.12 percentage points. It also was the closest Senate race in Florida since at least 1978, according to the Florida’s Division of Elections website. It required two recounts — by machine and by hand — as mandated by state law due to the razor-thin margins.
Trump asserts without evidence that the attention he brought to the Senate race prevented Democrats from “taking” that election from Scott, hinting at voter fraud by suggesting votes “disappeared at the very end.”
Despite Trump’s repeated claims after the Nov. 6 election of Florida races being potentially “stolen,” the state agencies charged with investigating potential fraud have said no credible allegations exist. It’s not uncommon for vote tallies to change in the days after Election Day as local officials process remaining mailed and provisional ballots. In Florida, Scott saw some of his lead dwindle after the Democratic strongholds of Palm Beach and Broward counties continued to count votes.
TRUMP: “After my heavily negotiated trip to Saudi Arabia last year, the Kingdom agreed to spend and invest $450 billion in the United States. This is a record amount of money. It will create hundreds of thousands of jobs, tremendous economic development, and much additional wealth for the United States. Of the $450 billion, $110 billion will be spent on the purchase of military equipment from Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon and many other great U.S. defense contractors. If we foolishly cancel these contracts, Russia and China would be the enormous beneficiaries — and very happy to acquire all of this newfound business.” — statement Tuesday.
THE FACTS: He’s greatly overstating the value of expected Saudi investments in the U.S.
The arms package, partly negotiated under the Obama administration, mixes old deals, some new business and prospective purchases that have not been worked out.
The Pentagon said last month that Saudi Arabia had signed “letters of offer and acceptance” for only $14.5 billion in military purchases and confirmed Tuesday that nothing further has reached that stage.
Those letters, issued after the U.S. government approves a proposed arms sale, specify its terms. Much of that $14.5 billion involves a missile defense system, a contract that appears to have advanced more than other significant investments but not been completed.
Moreover, the State Department estimated last year that if the full $110 billion in prospective arms business is fulfilled, it could end up “potentially supporting tens of thousands of new jobs in the United States.” That’s a far cry from the 500,000 to 600,000 jobs that Trump has said the arms deal is worth.
Details of the package have been sketchy, with no public breakdown of exactly what was being offered for sale and for how much. The government’s Congressional Research Service has described the package as a combination of sales that were proposed by President Barack Obama and discussed with Congress and new sales still being developed.
Meanwhile, there has been no verification from either country that “the Kingdom agreed to spend and invest $450 billion in the United States,” as Trump put it in his statement. White House spokeswoman Lindsay Walters did not respond to a request to explain the figure.
TRUMP: “Saudi Arabia would gladly withdraw from Yemen if the Iranians would agree to leave. They would immediately provide desperately needed humanitarian assistance.” — statement Tuesday.
THE FACTS: This seemingly benign view of Saudi intentions in Yemen does not square with reality on the ground. A Saudi-led blockade is at least partly responsible for widespread starvation in a country where three quarters of the population needs life-saving assistance. It’s the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. The U.S. has scaled back support for the Saudi-led coalition fighting Iranian-backed rebels and is pressing for a cease-fire.
The international aid group Save the Children estimated Wednesday that 85,000 Yemeni children younger than 5 have died of hunger and disease since civil war broke out in 2015. The United Nations says more than 1.3 million Yemeni children have suffered from severe acute malnutrition since the coalition went to war against Houthi rebels.
TRUMP: “Of course we should have captured Osama Bin Laden long before we did. I pointed him out in my book just BEFORE the attack on the World Trade Center. President Clinton famously missed his shot. We paid Pakistan Billions of Dollars & they never told us he was living there. Fools!” — tweet Nov. 19.
THE FACTS: There was nothing original or clairvoyant in the reference to bin Laden in Trump’s 2000 book. As part of his criticism of what he considered Bill Clinton’s haphazard approach to U.S. security as president, his book stated: “One day we’re told that a shadowy figure with no fixed address named Osama bin Laden is public enemy Number One, and U.S. jetfighters lay waste to his camp in Afghanistan. He escapes back under some rock, and a few news cycles later it’s on to a new enemy and new crisis.”
Trump’s book did not call for further U.S. action against bin Laden or al-Qaida to follow up on attacks Clinton ordered in 1998 in Afghanistan and Sudan after al-Qaida bombed the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. The U.S. attacks were meant to disrupt bin Laden’s network and destroy some of al-Qaida’s infrastructure, such as a factory in Sudan associated with the production of a nerve gas ingredient. They “missed” in the sense that bin Laden was not killed in them, and al-Qaida was able to pull off 9/11 three years later.
In passages on terrorism, Trump’s book correctly predicted that the U.S. was at risk of a terrorist attack that would make the 1993 World Trade Center bombing pale by comparison. That was a widespread concern at the time, as Trump suggested in stating “no sensible analyst rejects this possibility.” Trump did not explicitly tie that threat to al-Qaida and thought an attack might come through the use of a miniaturized weapon of mass destruction, like a nuclear device in a suitcase or anthrax.
Associated Press writers Seth Borenstein, Robert Burns and Josh Boak in Washington, Jill Colvin in Palm Beach, Fla., and David Koenig in Dallas contributed to this report.
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President Donald Trump publicly thanked Saudi Arabia for plunging oil prices just a day after he was harshly criticized for deciding not to further punish the kingdom for the killing of U.S.-based columnist Jamal Khashoggi.
Trump, who made clear in an exclamation-filled statement on Tuesday that he feels that the benefits of good relations with the kingdom outweigh the possibility its crown prince ordered the killing, tweeted on Wednesday that it’s “Great!” that oil prices are falling.
“Thank you to Saudi Arabia, but let’s go lower!” he wrote from his Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Florida, where he’s spending Thanksgiving.
The international crude benchmark has fallen under $65 per barrel from a four-year high of more than $86 in early October as the U.S., Saudi Arabia and Russia have stepped up output. However, OPEC, the cartel of oil-producing countries, could announce production cuts at its Dec. 6 meeting in Vienna, nudging prices upward.
The president on Tuesday condemned the brutal slaying of Khashoggi, a Saudi columnist for The Washington Post who had criticized the royal family. Trump described the brutal slaying of Khashoggi inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul as a “horrible crime … that our country does not condone.” But he rejected calls by many in Congress, including members of his own party, for a tougher response, and he dismissed reports from U.S. intelligence agencies that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman must have at least known about such an audacious and intricate plot.
“It could very well be that the crown prince had knowledge of this tragic event,” the president said. “Maybe he did and maybe he didn’t!”
The statement captured Trump’s view of the world and foreign policy, grounded in economic necessity. It began with the words “America First!” followed by “The world is a very dangerous place!”
The U.S. earlier sanctioned 17 Saudi officials suspected of being responsible for or complicit in the Oct. 2 killing, but members of Congress have called for harsher actions, including canceling arms sales.
Trump said “foolishly canceling these contracts” worth billions of dollars would only benefit Russia and China, which would be next in line to supply the weapons. Critics, including high-ranking officials in other countries, denounced Trump’s statement, saying he ignored human rights and granted Saudi Arabia a pass for economic reasons.
Asked by a reporter if he was saying that human rights are too expensive to fight for, Trump responded, “No, I’m not saying that at all.” But he preferred to focus on Iran rather than any actions by Saudi Arabia. The U.S. needs a “counterbalance” to Iran, “and Israel needs help, too,” he said. “If we abandon Saudi Arabia, it would be a terrible mistake.”
Trump was roundly criticized by Democrats, but some Republicans weighed in against him, too.
Sen. Rand Paul. R-Ky., said the Trump administration has “blinders on” in comparing Iran and Saudi Arabia and said Trump showed weakness in not standing up to Saudi Arabia.
Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, tweeted: “I never thought I’d see the day a White House would moonlight as a public relations firm for the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who is close to Trump, also disagreed with the president’s decision, saying America must not lose its “moral voice” on the international stage.
“It is not in our national security interests to look the other way when it comes to the brutal murder of Mr. Jamal Khashoggi,” Graham said.
Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, mocked Trump’s announcement, tweeting that Trump “bizarrely devotes the FIRST paragraph of his shameful statement on Saudi atrocities to accuse IRAN of every sort of malfeasance he can think of.”
Zarif went on to joke that “perhaps we’re also responsible for the California fires, because we didn’t help rake the forests— just like the Finns do?” He appeared to be referring to recent remarks in which Trump suggested raking the forest floor prevented fires in Finland and would have helped to prevent California’s devastating wildfires.
Mevlut Cavusoglu, the foreign minister of Turkey, where the killing occurred, said Khashoggi’s death should not be covered up for the sake of maintaining trade ties with Saudi Arabia.
“It concerns a murder,” Cavusoglu said. “It is not possible to say, ‘Our trade will increase. Let’s cover this up. Let’s ignore it.'”
Saudi prosecutors have said a 15-man team sent to Istanbul killed Khashoggi with tranquilizers and then dismembered his body, which has not been found. Those findings came after Saudi authorities spent weeks denying Khashoggi had been killed in the consulate.
Trump said King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed “vigorously deny” any knowledge of the planning or execution of the killing. He also said the CIA has not made a conclusive determination about whether the crown prince ordered it.
A U.S. official familiar with the case told The Associated Press last week that intelligence officials had concluded that the crown prince, the kingdom’s de facto leader, did order the killing. Others familiar with the case, however, have cautioned that while it’s likely the crown prince had a role, there continue to be questions about the degree.
“We may never know all of the facts surrounding the murder of Mr. Jamal Khashoggi,” Trump said. “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.”
Trump said he knew some members of Congress would disagree with his decision. He said he would listen to their ideas, but only if they were focused on U.S. national security.
Late last week, a bipartisan group of senators introduced legislation that calls for the suspension of weapons sales to Saudi Arabia, for sanctions on people who block humanitarian access in Yemen or support the Houthi rebels and for mandatory sanctions on those responsible for Khashoggi’s death.
Democrats harshly criticized Trump’s decision Tuesday and called on Congress to cut off arms sales to Saudi Arabia and end support for Saudi Arabia’s war against the Iran-backed Houthi rebels in neighboring Yemen, which is facing a humanitarian crisis.
“Standing with Saudi Arabia is not ‘America First!'” said Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia, where Khashoggi lived. “President Trump has sided with a murderous regime over patriotic American intelligence officials.”
Democrat Dianne Feinstein of California, a member of the Senate intelligence committee, said Khashoggi was killed by agents of the Saudi government in a “premeditated murder, plain and simple,” and she said she would introduce legislation requiring intelligence agencies to release an unclassified public assessment.
President Donald Trump faces increasing pressure to take tougher measures against Saudi Arabia over the killing of writer Jamal Khashoggi.
Trump says that Saudi Arabia is a “spectacular ally” and that he’s not convinced that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the kingdom’s de facto leader, was directly responsible for the Oct. 2 slaying of the editorial columnist for The Washington Post inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
But there are increasing calls for more action amid a growing consensus that the crown prince, who controls virtually all major levers of power in Saudi Arabia, must have known about the operation.
The pressure is coming from Democrats and Republicans in Congress and U.S. allies abroad.
France’s top diplomat said Monday that his country was mulling sanctions against Saudi Arabia. Germany on Monday announced that it has banned 18 Saudi nationals from entering Europe’s border-free Schengen zone because of their suspected connections to the killing. German officials, who earlier banned new weapons exports to Riyadh, also said they are halting previously approved arms exports.
Over the weekend, Trump called reports that the crown prince ordered the killing “premature.” He said that it was “possible” and that it was also possible that people will never know the truth.
“Donald Trump just says, ‘Will anybody really know?’ as if our intelligence agencies are incapable of making an assessment,” Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., said Monday.
He said CIA Director Gina Haspel and National Intelligence Director Dan Coats need to “come out and provide the American people and the Congress with a public assessment of who ordered the killing of Jamal Khashoggi.”
Saudi Arabia’s top diplomat insists that the crown prince had “absolutely” nothing to do with Khashoggi’s death, but U.S. intelligence officials have concluded that he ordered the killing, according to a U.S. official familiar with the assessment. Others familiar with the case caution that while it’s likely that the crown prince had a role in the death, there continue to be questions about the degree to which he was involved.
Vice President Mike Pence told reporters that Trump on Tuesday would review information about Khashoggi’s death and then make his decisions about the United States’ “enormously important strategic relationship” with Saudi Arabia, which is aligned with the United States in pushing back against Iran.
The president leaves Tuesday to spend Thanksgiving at Mar-a-Lago, his estate in Palm Beach, Florida. The following week, the president and the crown prince will attend the Group of 20 summit in Buenos Aires. Saudi media reported Monday that the crown prince will be present, bringing him face-to-face with Trump and leaders from Turkey, Canada and Europe, among others.
The United States has stepped up its opposition to Saudi Arabia’s war against Houthi rebels in neighboring Yemen. Saudi airstrikes in the war in Yemen have killed thousands of civilians.
In recent weeks, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis have called for a cease-fire in Yemen, and the U.S. has announced it would stop refueling Saudi Arabian aircraft fighting the Houthis. The U.S. also has sanctioned 17 Saudi officials suspected of being responsible for or complicit in the killing.
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., says sanctioning people who are already imprisoned — including some facing the death penalty in connection with the killing — will have little effect. Paul said the president should cut off arms sales to the kingdom, an action that Trump has repeatedly said he did not want to take.
Late last week, a bipartisan group of senators introduced legislation that calls for suspending weapons sales to Saudi Arabia; sanctions on people who block humanitarian access in Yemen or support the Houthi rebels; and mandatory sanctions on those responsible for Khashoggi’s death.
“There must be a transparent, credible investigation into Khashoggi’s murder,” New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said in introducing the bill with two Democratic and three Republican colleagues.
“On Yemen, the administration’s recent decision to suspend U.S. aerial refueling for the Saudi coalition absent an actual strategy for ending this conflict is empty action,” he said.
Some foreign policy experts advocate for a complete reset on relations with Riyadh.
Emile Nakhleh, a former member of CIA’s senior intelligence service, said that since the crown prince assumed power three years ago, he has turned his country into a “strongman autocracy” that can’t be trusted.
“His ruthless power grab, repression of potential challengers within his family, and crackdown on all opposition to his policies and projects inside and outside of Saudi Arabia have put American-Saudi relations at risk,” Nakhleh wrote in an op-ed Monday in the online intelligence newsletter The Cipher Brief. “He feels empowered to crush his potential rivals within the ruling family by his close relationship to President Trump and Jared Kushner.”
Kushner, the president’s son-in-law, has worked with the crown prince on various issues, including on how to end the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.
President Donald Trump said there is no reason for him to listen to a recording of the “very violent, very vicious” killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, which has put him in a diplomatic bind: how to admonish Riyadh for the slaying yet maintain strong ties with a close ally.
Trump, in an interview that aired Sunday, made clear that the audio recording, supplied by the Turkish government, would not affect his response to the Oct. 2 killing of Khashoggi, a columnist for The Washington Post who had been critical of the Saudi royal family.
“It’s a suffering tape, it’s a terrible tape. I’ve been fully briefed on it, there’s no reason for me to hear it,” Trump said in the interview with “Fox News Sunday.” ”I know everything that went on in the tape without having to hear it.”
On Saturday, Trump said his administration will “be having a very full report over the next two days, probably Monday or Tuesday.” He said the report will include “who did it.” It was unclear if the report would be made public.
American intelligence agencies have concluded that the crown prince ordered the killing in the Saudi Consulate in Turkey, according to a U.S. official familiar with the assessment. The official was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity. Others familiar with the case caution that while it’s likely the crown prince was involved in the death, there continue to be questions about what role he played.
Trump noted to “Fox News Sunday” that the crown prince has repeatedly denied being involved in the killing inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul.
“Will anybody really know?” Trump asked. “At the same time, we do have an ally, and I want to stick with an ally that in many ways has been very good.”
A Republican member of the Senate intelligence committee said that so far, there is no “smoking gun” linking the crown prince to the killing. Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri, who has received a confidential intelligence briefing on the matter, told ABC that “it’s hard to imagine” that the crown prince didn’t know about the killing, but he said, “I don’t know that we absolutely know that yet.”
He said that Congress will await the Trump administration’s report in the next two days and that the U.S. will need to be clear about the ramifications of sanctions, given Saudi Arabia’s strategic role in the Middle East.
For his part, Sen. Lindsey Graham, a Trump ally, said the crown prince has been a “wrecking ball” in the relationship between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia.
“I hate to say that because I had a lot of hope for him being the reformer that Saudi Arabia needs, but that ship has sailed as far as Lindsey Graham’s concerned,” the South Carolina Republican told NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
“I have no intention of working with him ever again,” said Graham, who is in line to be the next chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Intelligence officials have been providing information to Trump for weeks about the death, and he was briefed again by phone Saturday by CIA Director Gina Haspel and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo as he flew to California. White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders provided no details of his call but said the president has confidence in the CIA.
“The United States government is determined to hold all those responsible for the killing of Jamal Khashoggi accountable,” the State Department said in a statement. “Recent reports indicating that the U.S. government has made a final conclusion are inaccurate. There remain numerous unanswered questions with respect to the murder of Mr. Khashoggi.”
The statement added: “The U.S. government has taken decisive measures against the individuals responsible, including visa and sanctions actions. We will continue to explore additional measures to hold those accountable who planned, led and were connected to the murder. And, we will do that while maintaining the important strategic relationship between the United States and Saudi Arabia.”
Before his call on Air Force One, Trump told reporters that when it came to the crown prince, “as of this moment we were told that he did not play a role. We’re going to have to find out what they have to say.” That echoed remarks by national security adviser John Bolton, who said earlier this week that people who have listened to an audio recording of the killing do not think it implicates the crown prince.
Trump has called the killing a botched operation that was carried out very poorly and has said “the cover-up was one of the worst cover-ups in the history of cover-ups.”
But he has resisted calls to cut off arms sales to the kingdom and has been reluctant to antagonize the Saudi rulers. Trump considers the Saudis vital allies in his Mideast agenda.
But members of Congress are pushing Trump for a tougher response to the killing. The administration this past week penalized 17 Saudi officials for their alleged role in the killing, but American lawmakers have called on the administration to curtail arms sales to Saudi Arabia or take other harsher punitive measures.
Turkish and Saudi authorities say Khashoggi, a Saudi who lived in the United States, was killed inside the consulate by a team from the kingdom after he went there to get marriage documents.
The killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi “undermines regional stability” and the U.S. State Department plans to take further action in response to the killing, U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Saturday at an international conference in the Middle East.
Mattis never mentioned Saudi Arabia directly in connection with the Oct. 2 slaying of Khashoggi at the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul, Turkey. But he noted that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo revoked visas of Saudis implicated in the killing of the Washington Post writer, and he said additional measures will be taken.
Turkish officials have said that a Saudi team of 15 men tortured, killed and dismembered the writer and in a premeditated act. The kingdom initially said it knew nothing about what happened to Khashoggi, but on Thursday said evidence shows that the killing was premeditated.
Mattis made no move to directly blame Saudi and did not refer to the calls from members of Congress to cut arms sales to Saudi Arabia or impose sanctions on the kingdom. But his broader mention of the matter toward the end of his speech underscores the serious national security ramifications the incident poses for relations with a key U.S. ally.
“With our collective interests in peace and unwavering respect for human rights in mind, the murder of Jamal Khashoggi in a diplomatic facility must concern us all greatly,” Mattis told international officials and experts at the Manama Dialogue. “Failure of any one nation to adhere to international norms and the rule of law undermines regional stability at a time when it is needed most.”
He added that he will continue to consult with President Donald Trump and Pompeo as they consider the broader implications of the matter.
Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Jubeir, who spoke after Mattis at the conference, said hysterical media are rushing to judgment in the Khashoggi case.
“Unfortunately there has been this hysteria in the media about Saudi Arabia’s guilt before the investigation is completed,” he said, in response to questions about the killing. “What we say to people is wait until everything is done” then decide if the investigation was serious or not.
He said that the kingdom will hold those responsible accountable and put mechanisms in place to ensure this doesn’t happen again. “We will overcome” the consequences of the Khashoggi killing, he added.
Still, Mattis’ speech also reflected the difficult dilemma this has caused. In one section deeply critical of Iran, he referred to the ongoing attacks on Saudi by Iranian-backed Houthi militants in Yemen.
“I reiterate U.S. support for our partners’ right to defend themselves against Iranian-supplied Houthi attacks on their sovereign territory, and at the same time call for an urgent end to the fighting,” Mattis said.
Others in the U.S., however, have condemned the Saudis for what has been called indiscriminate bombings that have slaughtered civilians. Mattis and others, meanwhile, have said the U.S. is providing key support to the Saudi-led coalition, and that the assistance is helping the kingdom improve its targeting.
The U.S. he said, wants to continue to build the capacity of the Yemeni security forces who are batting the Houthis in a brutal civil war.
Mattis also later talked about America’s shared interests with its Arab and Israeli partners, adding that “our respect for the Saudi people is undiminished.”
But, he cautioned that respect “must come with transparency and trust.”
Saudi Arabia’s slow shift to reveal more details about the killing also reflects the kingdom’s acknowledgement that the killing could have a serious diplomatic, and possibly economic impact.
Khashoggi lived in self-imposed exile in the U.S. for the past year and wrote editorial columns for The Washington Post that were critical of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the kingdom’s heir apparent. He lived in self-imposed exile in the United States for nearly a year before his death, had written critically of Prince Mohammed’s crackdown on dissent.
More broadly, Mattis’ speech Saturday, focused on regional cooperation and the U.S. commitment to the Middle East.
He repeated his frequent criticism of Iran’s “outlaw regime,” which has fueled insurgencies in Yemen and Iraq, backed Syrian President Bashar Assad’s brutal government and fostered proxy terrorists across the region.
And he made clear that the U.S. commitment to the region outpaces any presence by Russia, which he said lacks essential moral principles.