Paul, Gra­ham find com­mon ground on Saudi Ara­bia

The Herald (Rock Hill) - - Front Page - BY LES­LEY CLARK AND EMMA DUMAIN [email protected]­ edu­[email protected]­

Lindsey Gra­ham laugh­ingly says his sud­den em­brace of Rand Paul is a sign of what the Bi­ble calls “end times.” Rand Paul jokes that their mind meld first needed cou­ples’ coun­sel­ing.

Long at odds when it comes to for­eign pol­icy, the South Carolina and Ken­tucky Repub­li­cans have dis­cov­ered rare com­mon ground: Fury over the role of Saudi Ara­bia’s crown prince in the death of jour­nal­ist Ja­mal Khashoggi and frus­tra­tion with the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s sup­port for the king­dom.

The White House al­lies rep­re­sent the hawk­ish and non-in­ter­ven­tion­ist poles of the Repub­li­can Party. Just this sum­mer Paul said Gra­ham was “a dan­ger” for leav­ing the door open to po­ten­tial use of mil­i­tary force against North Korea. Gra­ham shot back, “There is no threat to Amer­ica that Sen­a­tor Paul will not re­treat from.”

But as a Repub­li­can-led Se­nate gen­er­ally re­luc­tant to chal­lenge Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump pre­pares for a spir­ited de­bate over the next few days over how to deal with Saudi Ara­bia, Gra-

ham and Paul vividly il­lus­trate the cham­ber’s ex­tra­or­di­nary dis­con­tent with Trump’s de­ci­sion to side with the king­dom.

A Se­nate vote come come as soon as this week to con­demn the Saudi govern­ment for a va­ri­ety of al­leged malfea­sance, from its in­volve­ment in Ye­men to its role in Khashoggi’s death.

“It’s a sign that this pres­i­dent’s for­eign pol­icy has gone badly askew when Rand Paul and Lindsey Gra­ham are gen­er­ally in agree­ment,” said Sen. Chris Mur­phy, D-Con­necti­cut, who serves with Paul on the Se­nate For­eign Re­la­tions Com­mit­tee and has been meet­ing with Gra­ham to dis­cuss leg­isla­tive strate­gies for pun­ish­ing Saudi Ara­bia.

Paul and Gra­ham’s part­ner­ship could help set the tone as the Se­nate looks to up­braid the ad­min­is­tra­tion. Law­mak­ers could vote on at least one of three pro­pos­als to reg­is­ter con­gres­sional dis­plea­sure with the Saudi govern­ment.

It’s ex­pected that one pro­posal will be a Gra­ham-spon­sored non­bind­ing res­o­lu­tion ex­press­ing a sense of the Se­nate that Crown Prince Mo­ham­mad bin Sal­man helped or­ches­trate the jour­nal­ist’s mur­der on Oct. 2 in­side the Saudi con­sulate in Is­tan­bul.

Sen. Bob Corker, R-Ten­nessee, the re­tir­ing For­eign Re­la­tions Com­mit­tee chair­man who said he be­lieves a U.S. jury would ren­der a guilty ver­dict on bin Sal­man “in 30 min­utes,” said Gra­ham’s res­o­lu­tion or a ver­sion of it is ex­pected to pass over­whelm­ingly, re­gard­less of whether Gra­ham and Paul throw their weight be­hind it.

Trump has seem­ingly dis­re­garded CIA re­ports of the strong prob­a­bil­ity that the crown prince was be­hind Khashoggi’s bru­tal dis­mem­ber­ment and has warned against dis­rupt­ing a part­ner­ship that has re­sulted in Amer­i­can jobs from Saudi arm sales.

“Maybe he did and maybe he didn’t,” Trump said in a state­ment re­gard­ing whether bin Sal­man bore re­spon­si­bil­ity.

It’s pos­si­ble sen­a­tors end up send­ing a mea­sure to the pres­i­dent’s desk that would block U.S. arm sales to Saudi Ara­bia in re­tal­i­a­tion against the king­dom’s ac­tions. There could also be a vote on leg­is­la­tion to end U.S. mil­i­tary sup­port for the Saudi-led war in Ye­men, though that bill is un­likely to pass.

While Gra­ham and Paul’s sup­port might not change Trump’s mind on Saudi Ara­bia, to­gether they could send a pow­er­ful mes­sage about just how far the pres­i­dent’s friends are will­ing to go to get what they want on this par­tic­u­lar is­sue — and that they’re work­ing in tan­dem to do so.

This is not the first time the two men have agreed on con­tro­ver­sial poli­cies. Gra­ham told Mc­Clatchy this past week he and Paul had both backed ban­ning the U.S. mil­i­tary’s use of tor­ture. And each is lob­by­ing Repub­li­can lead­er­ship to pass leg­is­la­tion aimed at im­prov­ing the fed­eral prison sys­tem.

Paul pointed out that he and Gra­ham also share a his­tory of break­ing from the pres­i­dent.

“He’s been un­afraid to stake his po­si­tion de­spite what the pres­i­dent’s po­si­tion is and so am I,” Paul said of Gra­ham. “Usu­ally it’s been on the op­po­site side, but this is a good thing we’re to­gether.”

Gra­ham, who called their co­op­er­a­tion on Saudi Ara­bia a “new world,” joked that it was spelled out “in the Bi­ble, it’s the sign of the end times.”

“We’re find­ing com­mon pur­pose and fight­ing back against be­hav­ior that’s so out of the norm that it can’t be ig­nored,” Gra­ham said.

Paul, too, said the ex­tra­or­di­nary na­ture of Khashoggi’s mur­der and Saudi Ara­bia’s re­sponse had brought the two to­gether: “It’s an un­usual set of cir­cum­stances to have some­one butchered in a con­sulate. I think that’s why you’re see­ing peo­ple come to­gether be­cause it’s so dra­matic, it’s so dra­mat­i­cally wrong what Saudi Ara­bia’s do­ing.”

Af­ter Paul com­plained about be­ing ex­cluded from a CIA briefing on the Khashoggi mur­der, Gra­ham, who was in­vited to at­tend, stood up for his col­league. Later, Gra­ham told Mc­Clatchy he would per­son­ally give Paul some de­tails from that meet­ing, an un­usual over­ture of col­le­gial­ity be­tween the two.

They still have dif­fer­ences on how to deal with the Ye­men is­sue. Gra­ham has been op­posed to in­vok­ing the War Pow­ers act to end U.S. sup­port for the Saudi war in Ye­men, and Paul sup­ports tak­ing such an ac­tion. Gra­ham also voted with the ma­jor­ity last month to stop Paul’s ef­fort to pre­vent a $300 mil­lion sale of rocket launch­ers to Bahrain, a mem­ber of a Saudi-led coali­tion wag­ing war in Ye­men.

“I don’t think it’s one of us be­ing right or wrong, it’s that we both have the same sort of strong be­lief that we can’t let the Saudis do this,” Paul said. “It’s a meet­ing of the minds and I think it’s good.”

Now, on Saudi Ara­bia, Gra­ham and Paul might end up be­ing strong­est not just by agree­ing with each other on prin­ci­ple but by ac­tu­ally work­ing to­gether.

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