On Sunday, Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) appeared on NBC’s "Meet the Press" with Chuck Todd. During the segment, Todd asked Lee about the Trump administration’s position on Saudi Arabia in light of the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
I want to speak to the issue with Saudi Arabia. Here was the president pushing back on the CIA assessment – not necessarily conclusion, but...it's an assessment of high confidence that the Crown Prince in Saudi Arabia ordered the murder of Jamal Khashoggi. Here's the president responding to it.
Todd then played a clip in which President Trump speaks with a reporter about who should be held accountable for the murder of Khashoggi:
TRUMP: It's a very important ally, and if we go by a certain standard, we won't be able to have allies with almost any country, okay?
REPORTER: Who should be held accountable?
TRUMP: Maybe the world should be held accountable because the world is a vicious place.
After the clip, Todd quoted Fred Ryan, the CEO of The Washington Post (for which Khashoggi worked), regarding Trump’s assessment:
A clear and dangerous message has been sent to tyrants around the world: Flash enough money in front of the President of the United States, and you can literally get away with murder.
"Is [Fred Ryan] Right?" Todd asked Lee.
The senator replied:
I disagree with the president's assessment. It's inconsistent with the intelligence I've seen. Now, look, I don't have access to everything the president sees – I'm not sure what he's relying on. Intelligence I've seen suggests that this was ordered by the Crown Prince, and is yet another reason why I've been pushing, and why I joined forces with Bernie Sanders back in February, to get us out of fighting Saudi Arabia's civil war effort in Yemen against the Houthis.
I think this is yet another indication that this unauthorized, unconstitutional war – from our standpoint – is not something that we ought to be fighting. This is not an ally that deserves this kind of military intervention, especially because there's been no connection between the safety of the American people and our involvement in this war. It's one of the reasons why we've gotta get out now, and I believe this is an opportunity for the Congress to weigh in and say, "Let's halt our efforts in Yemen."
Turning his attention to why President Trump would choose to ally with Saudi Arabia, Todd asked Lee: "Is it fair to ask the question – what [are] the president's motives behind siding with the Saudis? And should Congress look into see if he's got financial motivations into why he might be siding with the Saudis over the CIA?"
Look, I don't know why he's siding with the Saudis. But I think there are things we can do to change our relationship with the Saudis, notwithstanding whatever his personal motivations might be.
I'm also certain that in the next Congress, people will look into that. But again, I think Congress has to take some ownership of U.S. foreign policy, especially as it relates to our intervention in this war, our unconstitutional fighting of a civil war in Yemen that has never been declared by the U.S. Congress as a problem – and that's on us.