U.S. Senator Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) announced on Monday, June 24 that he and a group of other Senators intend to circumvent the Trump administration and release an intelligence report about the 2018 assassination of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
Khashoggi was a Saudi Arabian native and outspoken critic of his home country’s regime, particularly of its current leader Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (known as “MBS”). According to a public report from the UN, he was taken into the Saudi embassy in Turkey, where he was killed and dismembered. Intelligence reports and leaks suggest this was done on the orders of the Crown Prince himself.
Wyden and four others added an amendment to a defense spending bill which would require the Director of National Intelligence, Dan Coats, to file a public report on Khashoggi’s assassination. The Trump administration has resisted attempts to bring this issue into the public eye, claiming skepticism of the underlying intelligence, despite the fact that both U.S. and UN intelligence reports seem to agree on the facts.
The administration’s hesitance could be related to the questionable close relationship that many Trump officials hold with the Saudis. Trump’s son-in-law and White House senior adviser Jared Kushner reportedly has an amiable personal relationship with MBS. On a more general level, U.S. arms sales to Saudi Arabia have also skyrocketed under the Trump administration.
The provision Wyden introduced does not force the DNI to file a report as soon as the law is passed. It serves as a trigger the Senate can use if the White House continues to avoid dealing with Khashoggi’s murder.
“I do not make this threat lightly,” he said, noting that he hopes he won’t have to act on it. “But if not, I will not rest… [because] intimidation and murder cannot be allowed to stand.”
By Ian MacRonald