Foreign Relations chairman says Trump has met reporting burden on Khashoggi murder; other senators disagree

‘The administration has been very forthcoming, the State Department has been very forthcoming,’ says Jim Risch

Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Jim Risch said the Trump administration has met its reporting requirements. (Sarah Silbiger/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee insists that the Trump administration has been responsive to congressional requests for information about the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, despite claims to the contrary from several colleagues. 

“We received a response to the inquiry that we made last fall,” Sen. Jim Risch said. “I’ve said we have been briefed on this matter numerous times, met with not all of the 17 intelligence agencies, but a good number of the intelligence agencies.”

“The administration has been very forthcoming, the State Department has been very forthcoming,” said Risch, an Idaho Republican. “Everyone’s in agreement this needs more work and it’s a work in progress.”

Risch is also a senior member of the Intelligence Committee.

Last Congress, the senators leading the Foreign Relations panel triggered a reporting requirement under the Magnitsky Act related to the murder of the former Washington Post columnist inside a Saudi consulate in Turkey.

But Democrats and, even some Republicans, do not agree that what they received from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was sufficient.

For instance, Foreign Relations ranking member Robert Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat, said Friday that the response the State Department did transmit to Congress fell well short of the obligations under the Magnitsky Act.

“The Administration failed to meet its legal requirement to make a determination of responsibility for this heinous murder and report to Congress,” he said. “I am very disappointed that the response from Secretary Pompeo doesn’t come close to fulfilling the statutory mandate and demonstrates what the administration has wanted all along — the Khashoggi murder to be forgotten. I will continue to push for the President to fully hold accountable those responsible for the death of Mr. Khashoggi and to uphold United States laws.”

Pompeo actually sent a letter to Menendez on Friday that misstated the name of the Senate panel (it’s the Foreign Relations Committee, not the Foreign Affairs Committee).

“In multiple meetings with Saudi officials and in numerous public statements, I emphasized the importance of a thorough, transparent and timely investigation, including accountability for those responsible for the killing,” Pompeo wrote. “We signaled our dedication to promoting accountability when we were the first nation to take action and designate 17 Saudi individuals on November 15, 2018, under the Global Magnitsky sanctions program for their involvement of the killing of Mr. Khashoggi.”

Menendez had triggered the law calling for the investigation in a letter he signed with former Sen. Bob Corker, the Tennessee Republican who was chairman of the Foreign relations Committee last Congress.

Ahead of that deadline, a bipartisan group of senators led by Menendez reintroduced legislation that would block some U.S. arms sales to Saudi Arabia in an effort to hold the Kingdom accountable.

“America is not covering up for a murder,” Pompeo told reporters on Monday in Hungary.

That was after acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney appeared on “Meet the Press” Sunday and did not have a clear answer on the status of the mandated report, which he said was a question better addressed to the State Department.

“I honestly don’t know and have not been familiar and worked into those negotiations. I do know that there are some requirements placed upon us by Congress, but I’m not aware of the status of that report,” Mulvaney said on NBC.

The White House did not immediately respond to a query from Roll Call on whether Mulvaney had received a briefing on the report as of noon on Tuesday.

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