Murdered Saudi Arabian writer Jamal Khashoggi and a group of journalists were named, collectively, as “Time Magazine’s” 2018 Person of the Year. USA TODAY
WASHINGTON – Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Monday sharply rejected an assertion that the Trump administration is complicit in a cover-up of the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
Pompeo’s remarks came after Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., accused the administration of turning a “blind eye” to evidence that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman personally ordered Khashoggi’s killing.
“This amounts to the Trump Administration aiding in the cover up of a murder,” Kaine, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said in a statement on Sunday. “America should never descend to this level of moral bankruptcy.”
The White House last week refused to comply with a congressional mandate that required the administration to determine whether the crown prince was responsible for Khashoggi’s murder. The White House told senators on the Foreign Relations Committee last week that it would not make the determination – infuriating lawmakers who had triggered the requirement under a provision of the Magnitsky Act, a human-rights law.
The top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Rep. Michael McCaul of Texas, also slammed the White House’s refusal to comply with the law.
“Everyone involved in this gruesome crime must be identified and held accountable,” McCaul said. “When the United States fails to lead, we compromise our integrity and abandon those pursuing justice around the world.”
The GOP lawmaker urged the White House to reverse could and provide the information that Congress demanded. But Democrats went further in alleging complicity by the Trump administration in helping Saudi Arabia’s rulers hide their alleged role in Khashoggi’s death.
“If the president ignores the clear mandate of the Magnitsky Act in a case involving premeditated murder perpetrated by officials of a foreign government, the White House will share the blame for attempting to cover up the crime,” Sen. Patrick Leahy, a Vermont Democrat and also a member of the Foreign Relations panel.
Asked about the allegations from Kaine and others on Monday, Pompeo said they were “dead wrong.”
“Sen. Kaine is just dead wrong,” Pompeo told reporters traveling with him in Budapest. “America is not covering up for a murder.”
He said the U.S. has taken “more action in response to the tragic murder of Jamal Khashoggi and will continue to take more action, continue our investigation,” Pompeo said. “We are working diligently on that. The president has been very clear – couldn’t be more clear – as we get additional information, we will continue to hold all of those responsible accountable.”