There has been bipartisan outrage over the disappearance — and reported murder — of Saudi journalist and Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
Earlier this week I joined my colleagues in sending a letter to the President requesting an independent investigation into Jamal’s disappearance. The Senate, on a bipartisan basis, has requested an investigation into the imposition of human rights sanctions on those responsible.
Since Jamal failed to return from the consulate on October 2, Turkish officials have leaked a steady stream information indicating he was murdered by a team sent from Saudi Arabia. This morning it was reported Turkey is in possession of actual audio from inside the consulate confirming this conclusion.
Jamal Khashoggi had been living in the U.S. for the past year because he feared for his safety after criticizing Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Jamal’s initial decision to live in self-imposed exile is stark example of the threat facing journalists and the attacks on free press taking place in the world today.
More importantly, Jamal’s alleged murder inside a diplomatic facility where he went to receive routine paperwork represents a grotesque violation of human rights. The idea that a government would permit, or perhaps order, the murder of a journalist simply for criticizing its policies should never be tolerated by the United States of America. It is an affront to the very core values on which this country was founded.
In shocking disregard for these very core values, President Trump seemed to dismiss Jamal because he was not a U.S. citizen, and more offensively, suggested that he would not even consider canceling the reported $110 billion arms sale with Saudi Arabia. Specifically, the President was quoted as saying, “Again, this took place in Turkey, and to the best of our knowledge Khashoggi is not a US citizen, is that right? He’s a permanent resident, okay… as to whether we should stop $110 billion from being spent in this country, that would not be acceptable to me.” The President of the United States placed a dollar value on human rights and on Jamal Khashoggi’s life.
Now, after speaking with King Salman, the President is speculating that “rogue” killers may have been responsible for Jamal’s death. This outrageous statement comes even after reports that U.S. intelligence agencies may have known that a plot to go after Jamal was directed from the highest levels of Saudi Arabia’s leaders. And unfortunately, it once again leaves Americans questioning whether the President is putting his own bottom line before American values.
America has historically been the leader and the moral authority on basic freedoms and rights for the rest of the world. We are ceding that leadership every day that we don’t forcefully denounce abuses occurring around the world, even if they occur at the hands of countries that we call allies. The President does not seem to understand that being an ally does not provide a license to act with impunity against our most basic American values.
I am saddened and outraged at this response. But I am heartened by the strong bipartisan support in Congress for maintaining American values and for seeking justice for Jamal.