WASHINGTON — Several Democratic members of Congress introduced a bill on Monday that would ban Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman from entering the United States, in the wake of the Biden administration's response to a report by U.S. intelligence on his involvement in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
Reps. Tom Malinowski, James McGovern and Andy Kim introduced the “Saudi Arabia Accountability for Gross Violations of Human Rights Act," which would also require the Biden administration to certify that Saudi Arabia is no longer harassing or intimidating people in the U.S. as a precondition for further arms sales.
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The bill comes following the release of the unclassified report by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence which assessed that the crown prince had approved a Saudi operation to capture or kill Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, who had become increasingly critical of the kingdom over the years, when he visited the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul in October 2018. Khashoggi’s body was never recovered and details of the gruesome murder were widely circulated around the world.
Several Democrats cautioned that the Biden administration’s punishments were not sufficiently robust, and that they let Crown Prince Mohammed off the hook for his involvement in the murder.
“I applaud the Biden Administration for naming MBS as Khashoggi’s killer, but it undercuts our message to Saudi Arabia if we accuse him of the crime and then do nothing to hold him accountable,” Malinowski, a close friend of U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, said in a press release. “The law is clear that the secretary of state must apply a visa ban on persons he knows are linked to gross human rights abuses — exactly what the Khashoggi report lays out. Our bill makes this doubly clear, and reminds the world that in America, no one, whether a president or a prince, is above the law,” the New Jersey lawmaker added.
“There must be consequences for the murder of Jamal Khashoggi. Such a heinous crime must not be met with impunity. This legislation is an important first step in ensuring that those responsible are named and held accountable,” McGovern, a lawmaker from Massachusetts who has been one of Congress’ more vocal critics of the Saudi regime, said. “I believe more can and should be done, including ending U.S. arms sales and security aid to the Saudi government. I look forward to working with Representative Malinowski to swiftly advance this important bill," he added.
“This bill sends a clear and necessary signal to the crown prince that his responsibility for the murder of Jamal Khashoggi won’t be without consequences. These actions demand accountability. If our government fails to act, we send a message to our allies and our enemies that America’s values and interests can be ignored and trampled,” added Kim, also from New Jersey.
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White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki on Monday defended the decision not to impose sanctions on the crown prince himself, arguing that targeting “the network responsible for these actions is the best way to prevent a crime like this from ever happening again.”
She added that the U.S. does not sanction leaders of foreign governments with which it has diplomatic ties, though the administration reserved the right to take any action it deems necessary in the future.
State Department spokesperson Ned Price added that "we are not in a position to detail the names of those who are subject to the 'Khashoggi ban' or other potential remedial measures, nor will we be able to preview those who may be added in the future."