President Trump’s “maybe he did and maybe he didn’t” proclamation on the Saudi crown prince’s involvement in the murder of Jamal Khashoggi isn’t going to suffice, as the leaders of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee are now demanding he provide a definitive determination on the incident.
Legally, this is no longer down to simple presidential stubbornness, as the Magnitsky Act obliges the president to make determinations about the violation of human rights by global leaders within 120 days of a committee request. The first request from the committee was made on October 10, so the clock is running.
The committee likely didn’t intend to have to force Trump’s hand like this, as the president had previously suggested the US would be making a determination. Yet in the end, this final determination boiled down to dismissing the CIA assessment that the crown prince was guilty, and arguing that Saudi business interests are too important to risk whether they murdered a journalist or not.
Both houses of Congress are increasingly critical, both of the Saudis and of the administration for helping the Saudis cover up what they did. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) in particular noted on Wednesday that “being Saudi Arabia’s bitch” did not align with Trump’s stated goals of America First.
President Trump is showing no signs he expects this to die down in the future. Instead, he continued to loudly praise the Saudis on Wednesday, crediting them for bringing down the price of oil.