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Senators to try formally condemning Saudi crown prince for journalist’s killing

Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) on Dec. 4 said if Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman were before a jury, he would be "convicted in 30 minutes" of murder. (Video: The Washington Post)

The Senate may formally condemn Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi before the end of the year, if no one stands in the way of the outgoing Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman’s plan to expedite a vote to do so on the floor.

Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) said he would seek on Tuesday to have the Senate vote on a measure holding the crown prince responsible for the killing of Khashoggi, and calling on him to cease other aggressive Saudi policies in the Persian Gulf, including its military campaign in Yemen, blockade of Qatar and incarceration of human rights activists.

While the measure is nonbinding, it nonetheless would serve as a rebuke of President Trump, who has refused to blame Mohammed for the killing — breaking with the findings of the CIA and angering many in Congress, even his own allies, for prioritizing weapons sales and other transactions with Saudi Arabia over American values.

“While this doesn’t affect policy . . . it’s a pretty strong statement for the United States to be making, assuming we can get a vote on it,” Corker said, noting that condemning Mohammed was an especially bold move by Republicans.

Republicans have thus far struggled to find a common outlet to express their frustration with Trump’s response to the Khashoggi killing.

Late last month, 14 Republicans backed a procedural motion to advance a measure curtailing U.S. support for the Saudi-led military campaign in Yemen. Many of them only did so, however, to send a message to Trump that he ought to condemn Mohammed before lawmakers took matters into their own hands. Most of those Republicans are not expected to back upcoming votes on the resolution, which is still likely to sustain enough support to pass the Senate but expected to be blocked from coming up in the House.

A separate bipartisan effort to approve new sanctions against Saudi officials involved in Khashoggi’s killing and stop the transfer of weapons to the kingdom until it ceases hostilities in Yemen has also run into snags, as senators, knowing they almost surely do not have enough time to pass the measure before next year, argue about whether it is worth fine-tuning it now.

Corker’s measure condemning Mohammed is similar to a proposal introduced last week by Sens. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and others, that finds the crown prince “was complicit” in Khashoggi’s October slaying in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

Corker guessed that kind of legislation will strike a happy medium — and give the Senate a means of expressing its outrage while lawmakers continue to work on more substantive proposals.

“I hope it’s something that will be massively supported,” he said.

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