Trump stands with Saudi crown prince as Senate threatens countermeasures: reports

2018-12-12 06:05:42 GMT2018-12-12 14:05:42(Beijing Time) Xinhua English

WASHINGTON, Dec. 11 (Xinhua) -- U.S. President Donald Trump reportedly said on Tuesday that he would stand with Saudi Arabia's crown prince despite the death of a Saudi journalist, Jamal Khashoggi.

Trump told Reuters in an interview on Tuesday that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman "is very strong in power," and standing by the kingdom "certainly" meant standing by the crown prince at this moment.

Amid wide outrage over the Trump administration's reluctance to further punish the kingdom, also on Tuesday, Bob Corker, chairman of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told the media that this week, he planned to introduce a joint resolution condemning the Saudi crown prince for the killing of Khashoggi, in a bid to force Trump to take a tougher stance over the alleged murder.

Corker, a veteran Republican, said that he expected the resolution, co-sponsored by other heavyweights including Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, to pass the Senate with "a very, very strong vote."

If the resolution also passes the House of Representatives, Trump would have to decide whether to sign it or veto.

When asked about the Congress' countermeasure, Trump said in the interview that he would meet with senators in the hope that the senators would not propose to stop arms sales to the Saudis.

However, he added that he could abide by legislation that requires to end U.S. support for the Saudi-led attack in Yemen, noting that "I'm much more open to Yemen because frankly, I hate to see what's going on in Yemen."

For their part, Democratic Senators Ed Markey and Jeff Merkley sent a letter on Tuesday to ask Energy Secretary Rick Perry to brief the Congress on his earlier talks with Saudi Arabia on a civilian nuclear agreement during his recent trip to the kingdom.

According to a separate report of NBC News on Tuesday, CIA Director Gina Haspel will brief the House leaders on Wednesday about what U.S. intelligence community knows about the murder of Khashoggi.

She has given a classified briefing on Khashoggi's death to several senators earlier on Dec. 4, but even Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, a close ally of Trump, said after the briefing that one would have to be "wilfully blind" to deny that the Saudi crown prince was "intimately involved."

NBC also quoted three Senate aides as saying that the head of Turkish intelligence, Hakan Fidan, had come to Washington last week to brief a group of bipartisan senators about Turkey's investigation on Khashoggi's case.

In another sign of global reflection over the case, Time Magazine earlier on Tuesday honored Khashoggi as one of its People of the Year, the first time for the magazine to choose someone that is no longer alive.

Khashoggi has been missing since he entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2. The Saudi authorities said he died in a "brawl" in the consulate.

After releasing the results of its initial investigation, the Saudi Public Prosecution announced that 18 Saudis were arrested for their alleged connections with the killing.

The U.S. Congress has urged a thorough investigation into his death, and threatened to take more actions against Saudi Arabia, such as sanctions and suspension of military support for the Saudi-led attack in Yemen, if those responsible were not held accountable.

However, the Trump administration has been reluctant to further punish the Saudi government. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a recent article that the death of Khashoggi has "heightened the Capitol Hill caterwauling and media pile-on."