Criticism Rises as Trump Preaches “America First” and Insists Saudi Money is Worth More than America’s Soul

November 21st, 2018 - by admin

Associated Press & The Daily Beast & The View & Face the Nation – 2018-11-21 23:53:35

Trump’s Embrace of Saudi Arabia Causes GOP Rift
Deb Riechmann / Associated Press

WASHINGTON (November 20, 2018) — President Donald Trump’s embrace of Saudi Arabia has exposed a foreign policy rift in the Republican Party, as some of his GOP colleagues warn that not punishing the kingdom for its role in killing a US-based columnist will have dangerous consequences.

Many Republicans — even Sens. Lindsey Graham and Rand Paul, who share their views on the matter with the president — have denounced Trump’s decision not to levy harsher penalties on Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman over the death and dismemberment of Jamal Khashoggi inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul.

Sen. Bob Corker, the Republican chairman of the influential Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said Wednesday he was “astounded” by Trump’s statement and likened it to a press release for Saudi Arabia.

“It is a delicate situation when we have a long-term ally that we’ve had for decades, but we have a crown prince that I believe ordered the killing of a journalist,” Corker told Chattanooga TV station WTVC in his home state of Tennessee. “We don’t have a smoking gun. Everything points to the fact that he knew about it and directed it.”

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo defended Trump’s decision, saying the US has already placed sanctions on 17 Saudi officials suspected of involvement in the Oct. 2 killing of The Washington Post columnist, who had been critical of the royal family.

“We’ve sanctioned 17 people — some of them very senior in the Saudi government,” Pompeo said Wednesday in a radio interview with KCMO in Kansas City, Missouri. “We are going to make sure that America always stands for human rights.”

Graham, R-S.C., isn’t convinced. “When we lose our moral voice, we lose our strongest asset,” he said.

Members of both parties have accused Trump of ignoring US intelligence that concluded, according to one US official, that it was likely the crown prince ordered the killing. Several lawmakers have indicated that the US has no “smoking gun” that proves he was responsible, but they have called on the CIA and other top intelligence agencies to publicly share what they told the president about the slaying.

In his statement Tuesday, Trump argued that punishing Saudi Arabia by “foolishly canceling” Saudi arms deals worth billions of dollars to the US would only benefit Russia and China. Critics, including high-ranking officials in other countries, accused Trump of ignoring human rights and giving Saudi Arabia a pass for economic reasons.

It’s “America First,” Trump said.

That unleashed a tweet Wednesday from Democratic Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii who wrote: “Being Saudi Arabia’s bitch is not ‘America First.'”

Trump also said the US needs Saudi Arabia’s help to counter Iran in the region, fight extremism and keep oil prices steady. The US, Russia and the Saudis have boosted oil production in anticipation of sharply lower exports from Iran due to US sanctions reinstated after Trump exited the Iran nuclear deal.

Trump publicly thanked Saudi Arabia on Wednesday for plunging oil prices. However, OPEC, the cartel of oil-producing countries, could announce production cuts at its Dec. 6 meeting in Vienna, nudging prices upward.

“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.

Criticism of the president will likely resume after the holiday when lawmakers return to Capitol Hill early next week.

“Congressional Republicans will have to do a gut check,” Jon Alterman, director of the Middle East Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said Wednesday. “The Republican Party has believed for more than 50 years that morality was one of the reasons why the United States won the Cold War. And the president walked away from that.”

Some lawmakers are already fighting back. Twenty-two members of the Senate — 11 Republicans and 11 Democrats — have triggered investigations into Khashoggi’s death and specifically whether the crown prince was responsible. The investigations were requested under provisions of the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act.

The act requires the president to report back to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee within 120 days — in this case by Feb. 7 — on whether the crown prince was responsible for an extrajudicial killing, torture or other gross violation of internationally recognized human rights against an individual exercising freedom of expression and the administration’s decision on whether sanctions are warranted.

Moreover, three Democrats and three Republicans, who say sanctions, which include a ban on travel to the US, imposed so far are insufficient, have introduced the Saudi Arabia Accountability and Yemen Act of 2018. Among other things, the bill calls for suspending weapon sales to Saudi Arabia and imposing mandatory sanctions on all those responsible for Khashoggi’s death and those blocking humanitarian access to Yemen.

Democrats going against the president is expected, but Republican outrage will be more difficult for Trump to shrug off.

Before leaving for the holiday, Paul, R-Ky., lamented to The Associated Press that Trump didn’t accept the counsel he received from both him and Graham — two Republicans often at odds on foreign policy.

Graham has said the crown prince is “irrational” and “unhinged” and warns there will be strong, bipartisan support in Congress for harsher sanctions against Saudi Arabia and members of the royal family.

Paul typically eschews US intervention abroad, but views Khashoggi’s death as one in a long line of malign activities by Saudi Arabia topped by its war in neighboring Yemen where civilians are being killed by Saudi airstrikes.

“He’s been hearing from both myself and from Lindsey Graham — two different sides of the foreign policy spectrum — and yet we get this,” Paul said about Trump’s statement in support of Saudi Arabia. “We really have to reconsider what we’re doing.”

Associated Press writers Matthew Lee, Maria Danilova and Lisa Mascaro contributed to this report.

Rep Tulsi Gabbard to Trump:
Being Saudi Arabia’s B*tch Is Not ‘America First’

The Daily Beast

(November 21, 2018) — Hawaii congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard took to Twitter on Wednesday to excoriate Donald Trump for his decision to apparently pardon Saudi Arabia for the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, labeling the president the “bitch” of the authoritarian kingdom.

“Hey @realDonaldTrump,” Gabbard tweeted, “being Saudi Arabia’s bitch is not “America First.”

Gabbard’s tweet comes just a day after Trump announced released a statement — with “America First!” right at the top — that heavily implied that he will not pursue any further action against top Saudi officials, who are widely believed to be responsible for the writer’s murder, and cast doubt on the finding of the CIA, his own intelligence service . . . .

Gabbard previously came under fire for her own forays into Middle Eastern affairs, including her secret 2016 trip to meet with President Bashar al-Assad of Syria at the height of its civil war and her suggestion that Assad, a brutal dictator who has overseen the deaths of more than 500,000 people in his country, should not be removed from office.

“A Sad Day in America”
Meghan McCain Tears Up Over
Trump’s ‘Depressing’ Saudi Stance:
This Is ‘Not the America I Grew Up In’

Matt Wilstein / The Daily Beast

(November 21, 2018) — President Donald Trump has claimed that his decision to stand with Saudi Arabia after the killing of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi is all part of his “America First” strategy. “But is it?” Whoopi Goldberg asked on Wednesday’s edition of The View.

Trump’s comments have provoked rare rebukes from typically loyal members of his own party, and the two conservative co-hosts of The View were no exception. Meghan McCain in particular — never a Trump defender — laid into the president for the way he has eroded American values and ideals.

Trump Defends Saudis In Khashoggi Killing
The View

“I knew we were going to come out here and have a beautiful Thanksgiving spread,” McCain said, remarking on the incongruous holiday decorations. “Jamal Khashoggi was cut up into little pieces and brutally murdered for being a dissident journalist. His family are Americans here in this country. There’s a tectonic shift happening in our country where human rights violations, we’re OK’ing them, we don’t have the same response we once did.”

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