Washington: A group of four top Democratic lawmakers on Tuesday urged President Donald Trump to condemn the "murder" of Saudi dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi, asserting that America's global moral standing is at risk.
Despite mounting evidence that the 60-year-old Khashoggi, a critic of the Saudi government who spent time living and working in the US, was tortured and killed, the White House has continued to equivocate on the obvious and coddled the leaders of the Saudi regime, the Democratic Senators rued in a statement after sending a letter to President Trump.
Khashoggi, a columnist for The Washington Post, was killed inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2.
The Saudi government initially said he left the consulate through the back door. Following a global outrage, the Saudi government on Friday in a statement acknowledged that Khashoggi was killed in a fistfight inside the consulate and noted that an interrogation went wrong.
The Democratic Senators who signed on the letter are Dick Durbin, Senate Appropriations Committee's Defence Subcommittee Ranking Member; Patrick Leahy, Senate Appropriations Committee Vice Chairman; Dianne Feinstein, Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member; and Bernie Sanders, Senate Budget Committee Ranking Member.
"America's strength has always emanated not just from its military capabilities, but from its values and ability to inspire. Presidents of both major political parties recognised this unique gift, using it to shape global affairs and give hope to those seeking a better and more democratic life," the members wrote in the letter.
The Senators wrote that at times like this, the US should speak firmly with a united voice that American values are not for sale and that such actions are intolerable in the civilised world.
"Unfortunately, your troubling abandonment of America's moral standing did not begin with Khashoggi's murder. You similarly embraced Russian dictator Vladimir Putin, who has murdered his opponents both in Russia and abroad, including on the soil of key NATO allies," they alleged.
"Putin has interfered in democratic elections and tried to manipulate those in other allied democracies. Yet, you enamoured yourself with Putin, trusting his word over American and allied intelligence and even naively suggesting you would turn over an American diplomat to his henchmen for sham questioning," the Senators wrote.
They said Trump had lavished praise on North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, saying that he "fell in love" with the man who threatened the US with nuclear war and has enslaved and murdered untold numbers of his own people.
"You have also supported countless other global autocrats, including those from Egypt, China, Turkey, and the Philippines. In some cases you have copied some of their worst behaviours by threatening journalists or encouraging calls for your political opponents to be jailed," the letter said. Embracing such leaders, many unelected or elected in dubious circumstance, who actively undermine democratic norms, murder or jail their opponents, or who are afraid of a free press or legitimate elections enables such behaviour while undermining America at home and abroad, the Democratic Senator wrote.
"As such, we urge you to end this troubling downward spiral and restore America's moral standing. You and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo can start by forcefully, without equivocation, condemning Jamal Khashoggi's murder and indicating there will be severe consequences to those around the world who act in such a barbaric manner," the letter said.
Turkish officials have said they have evidence Khashoggi was tortured, dismembered and murdered inside the consulate. President Trump has said he was "not satisfied" with the response of Riyadh over Khashoggi's death.
The president also said a group of US officials are in Saudi Arabia and another group of investigators in Turkey are trying to gather information on this issue. "I am not satisfied with what I've heard," Trump told reporters at the White House before leaving for an election rally in Texas Monday.