Gard­ner wants crown prince pun­ished, not Saudi Ara­bia

Sen­a­tor be­lieves Mo­hammed had role in mur­der

The Denver Post - - DENVER & THE WEST - By Anna Staver

The U.S. Se­nate could a take a his­toric step to­ward over­rid­ing the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion by with­draw­ing some mil­i­tary sup­port from Saudi Ara­bia as early as Mon­day, but Sen. Cory Gard­ner, R-Colo., hopes an al­ter­na­tive comes to­gether be­fore that.

“This is a coun­try in a crit­i­cal part of the re­gion that has played a key role in our work pro­tect­ing Is­rael,” Gard­ner told The Den­ver Post. “The right ques­tion is, how do we pro­tect the in­no­cent peo­ple of Saudi Ara­bia while go­ing af­ter the peo­ple re­spon­si­ble for this hor­rific, heinous mur­der?”

The mur­der Gard­ner re­ferred to is the killing of a jour­nal­ist named Ja­mal Khashoggi, who walked into the Saudi Con­sulate in Turkey one day in early Oc­to­ber to get doc­u­ments for a mar­riage li­cense and never walked out. The CIA and its equiv­a­lent in Turkey both con­cluded that Saudi Crown Prince Mo­hammed bin Sal­man is re­spon­si­ble for Khashoggi’s mur­der and likely dis­mem­ber­ment.

“This is a prime ex­am­ple of a hu­man rights vi­o­la­tion,” Gard­ner said.

Gard­ner’s crit­ics in the Colorado Demo­cratic Party, how­ever, say that’s a rev­er­sal from what he told KDMT ra­dio host Jimmy Sen­gen­berger on Nov. 29.

“Well, I would be care­ful of what the CIA is be­ing ac­cused of say­ing,” Gard­ner told Sen­gen­berger then. “And I think that was clear in a briefing yesterday. I can’t get into the de- tails of it, but I would just be very care­ful about what the CIA does and doesn’t be­lieve.”

Gard­ner has never been briefed by the CIA about Khashoggi’s mur­der, and he told The Den­ver Post that’s what he tried to say when he talked with Sen­gen­berger.

There’s no text mes­sage, email or “smok­ing gun” that di­rectly links the prince to the crime, but Gard­ner said all the ev­i­dence he’s seen points to Mo­hammed.

The Yuma Repub­li­can wants to levy sanc­tions against the prince as well as any­one who helped him carry out the plan.

“We can deny their pass­ports, deny their visas. And if you do that here, it trig­gers a whole other se­ries of coun­tries that deny them as well,” Gard­ner

said. “We freeze their bank as­sets. You can imag­ine what it would be if all of a sud­den the crown prince can’t get a credit card any­where be­cause we have taken those ac­tions. We don’t al­low them to in­vest here any­more.”

Gard­ner, who sits on the Se­nate For­eign Re­la­tions Com­mit­tee, went so far as to say he could sup­port sanc­tions against the coun­try of Saudi Ara­bia if it failed to pun­ish the prince, but “we have to rec­og­nize we can’t do any­thing that would em­power ISIS, alQaeda or Iran.”

He thinks that could hap­pen if Sens. Mike Lee, RU­tah; Chris Mur­phy, DConn.; and Bernie San­ders, I-Vt.; pass their bill. It would use the War Pow­ers Act of 1973 to end U.S. in­volve­ment in the war be­tween Saudi Ara­bia and a Ye­meni eth­nic group called the Houthis. In late Novem­ber, the Se­nate voted 63-37 to ad­vance that pro­posal for floor de­bate.

“The sit­u­a­tion in Ye­men now is the worst hu­man­i­tar­ian dis­as­ter in the world,” San­ders said in a state­ment af­ter the Novem­ber vote. “Eighty-five thou­sand chil­dren have al­ready starved to death and mil­lions more are on the brink of star­va­tion. All of which was caused by Saudi in­ter­ven­tion in the civil war in Ye­men.”

Sen. Michael Ben­net, DColo., voted yes, while Gard­ner voted no.

Ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials, in­clud­ing Sec­re­tary of State Mike Pom­peo, have con­tin­ued to as­sert that the hu­man­i­tar­ian cri­sis in Ye­men, se­cu­rity in the re­gion and an on­go­ing at­tempt to ne­go­ti­ate a cease-fire “would be a hell of a lot worse” if Congress with­draws the U.S. mil­i­tary.

Gard­ner agreed, say­ing: “We know for a fact that the Houthis that are in Europe right now ne­go­ti­at­ing would have walked away from this ne­go­ti­a­tion had the U.S. em­pow­ered them by do­ing what Bernie San­ders wanted.”

If the Novem­ber res­o­lu­tion passes with­out any changes, it will be the first time Congress has in­voked the War Pow­ers Act to end mil­i­tary op­er­a­tions in a for­eign coun­try.

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