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Senators Demand to Know More About Saudi Journalist’s Killing

Hatice Cengiz, Turkish fiancee of slain Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, attends a news conference to present a book on Khashoggi, in Istanbul, Feb. 8, 2019.

Republican and Democratic members of the U.S. Senate asked the Trump administration Thursday to tell them more about the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at a Saudi consulate last year, days after a missed deadline for a detailed report on his death prompted an angry bipartisan backlash.

Ten of the 12 Republicans from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, led by Chairman Jim Risch, wrote to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo asking for more information.

“The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is committed to pursuing all information available in its oversight role and, to that end, is in the process of arranging a classified briefing for the committee,” Risch said in a statement.

FILE - Sen. Jim Risch, R-Idaho, arrives for a vote on Capitol Hill, May 17, 2018, in Washington.
FILE - Sen. Jim Risch, R-Idaho, arrives for a vote on Capitol Hill, May 17, 2018, in Washington.

All 10 committee Democrats, led by senior member Bob Menendez, along with Appropriations Committee Vice Chairman Pat Leahy, signed their own letter demanding that Pompeo brief Congress on why President Donald Trump’s administration missed last Friday’s deadline to report to Congress on whether Saudi government officials and members of the royal family, including Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, were behind the death of Khashoggi, a legal U.S. resident.

Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist and critic of the Saudi government, was killed at a Saudi consulate in Turkey in October. His death fueled simmering discontent with the Saudis among many in Washington angry over the kingdom’s human rights record and heavy civilian casualties in Yemen’s civil war, where a Saudi-led coalition is fighting Iran-backed Houthi rebels.

War powers resolution

Members of Congress have been introducing legislation for months to push back against Riyadh. On Wednesday, the Democratic-led U.S. House of Representatives approved a rare war powers resolution that would end U.S. support for the Saudi Arabia-led coalition in Yemen. A Senate vote is expected within weeks.

While several Republicans had demanded more of a response from Trump last week, Risch told reporters Tuesday: “I’m really satisfied with the way they are answering questions and giving us information.”

Update provided

A State Department representative, commenting on the senators’ letters, said Pompeo had provided an update to Foreign Relations on Friday and would continue to consult with Congress.

After initially denying his death, Saudi Arabia has confirmed that its agents killed Khashoggi. Riyadh denies its senior leaders were behind the killing.