Senators threatened Monday to impose new sanctions on Saudi Arabia over the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, after the White House failed to investigate the journalist’s murder.
Fresh tensions over the killing came on the same day that an Al Jazeera documentary revealed that Khashoggi’s mutilated corpse was likely burned in the home of the Saudi consulate general in a specially-constructed tandoori oven.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee invoked the Magnitsky Act in October, giving the White House 120 days to determine if Riyadh was to blame for the murder.
However, the Trump administration missed the Feb. 8 deadline for that update and a Monday briefing by the White House did little to assuage tensions with committee members fuming at “zero” new information.
Lawmakers from both parties also complained that no one from the from the intelligence community attended the meeting, which was fronted by Manisha Singh, the acting Under Secretary For Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment.
“They don’t want us to have a conversation about the intelligence,” Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn) said, referring to the White House. “These folks had no new information and were not permitted to give us any new information.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) labeled the meeting “a complete waste of time.”
“The Senate is going to have to decide whether to impose its own sanctions," Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla) said after the meeting. Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) added that sanctions “should be levied.”
“I think the Senate's going to have to act unless it is willing to accept the death of a U.S. resident journalist as an acceptable action because of a broader relationship. I don't accept that," Menendez said.
Khashoggi was murdered inside the Saudi embassy in Istanbul on Oct. 2 with Riyadh claiming his death was the result of “rogue operatives.”
Turkish officials have said crown prince Mohammed bin Salman remains the chief suspect and U.S. lawmakers briefed by intelligence agents say they are certain the Saudi leader directed Khashoggi’s killing.
Despite the growing evidence, the White House has steadfastly refused to blame Riyadh. Last week Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner met with MBS in Riyadh to discuss regional peace plans.
Before Monday’s briefing, tensions between Congress and the White House over Saudi Arabia were already simmering due to the administration’s backing for the war in Yemen, which has prompted the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
Cover image: A demonstrator holds a poster picturing Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi and a lightened candle during a gathering outside the Saudi Arabia consulate in Istanbul, on October 25, 2018. (YASIN AKGUL/AFP/Getty Images)