Vermont’s three representatives in Congress are calling for sanctions against Saudi Arabia after the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Turkey.
Khashoggi entered the consulate October 2 and hasn't been seen since. The Saudi government — after initially denying any involvement in Khashoggi’s disappearance — has acknowledged that the critic of the Saudi government was killed inside the consulate in a premeditated plot.
In an op-ed in Thursday’s New York Times, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said the United States should end its military aid for Saudi Arabia’s ongoing war against Houthi rebels in Yemen.
“The United States is deeply engaged in this war,” Sanders wrote. “We are providing bombs the Saudi-led coalition is using, we are refueling their planes before they drop those bombs, and we are assisting with intelligence.”
Sanders said Khashoggi’s killing, which appears to have been carried out at the orders of Saudi government officials, should make the U.S. rethink its alliance with the oil-rich monarchy.
The U.S. must “show that the Saudis do not have a blank check to continue violating human rights,” he wrote.
Vermont’s junior senator introduced a resolution in the Senate in February calling on Trump to stop America's support for the war. The Senate voted 55 to 44 against the proposal, Sanders said, but he plans to introduce it again in November.
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) is the ranking member of the Senate Appropriations Committee’s State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs Subcommittee. That gives him power to influence legislation that provides funding to foreign governments.
Leahy joined Sens. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) to send Trump a letter that triggers the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act. The law requires the Trump administration to investigate alleged human rights violations and report to Congress within 120 days on its findings.
If there is a determination of wrongdoing, the president has the power to implement sanctions against the offending country.
Leahy accused the president of seeking to do the opposite.
“If ever a story reeked of a coverup, it is this one,” Leahy said in an October 19 statement. “It’s taken three weeks for the Saudis to even admit that an American resident and journalist died in the Saudis’ own consulate. And throughout this ordeal, the only urgency apparent in our President’s handling of this crisis has been a compulsion to buy time for the Saudis to construct a story to protect the royal family.”
Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) is a cosponsor of legislation in the House that would ban the sale of weapons to Saudi Arabia and halt military aid to its government if the State Department confirms that Khashoggi was killed by Saudi officials.
“For too long the United States has blindly supported a Saudi government engaged in a horrific campaign against the people of Yemen,” Welch said in an October 17 statement. “And now we learn that the Saudis were, at a minimum, complicit in the murder of a journalist who was critical of the Saudi regime. It is long past time to stop military assistance and the sale of arms to this brutal dictatorship.”
Leahy has joined eight Democratic senators demanding that Trump disclose his family's business ties with the Saudi government as well.
“Our country must not be complicit in this coverup,” Leahy said.