Washington • In a rebuke of President Donald Trump, Sen. Mitt Romney on Thursday said he was “concerned” the administration has not explained its findings about the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi at a Saudi consulate in Turkey.
It’s the second time Romney has criticized the Trump administration’s response to the brutal killing of the columnist, but this time, the Utah Republican said the White House must brief Congress on what happened and what response the United States took against Saudi Arabia.
“The question that Congress wants answered is whether any senior Saudi officials, including members of the Saudi royal family, were responsible for the murder of Jamal Khashoggi,” Romney tweeted Thursday. “By law, the President is required to report to Congress on these findings & imposition of sanctions.”
In another tweet, Romney said, “I am concerned that the Administration has yet to comply with the law, nor has it sufficiently explained why. As has been requested by members of both parties, I urge the Administration to rectify this urgent situation and brief Congress on its progress as soon as possible.”
The CIA has said that Jamal Khashoggi, who lived in Virginia and wrote for the Post, was killed and dismembered inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October and that his execution was ordered by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Trump has refused to agree with that intelligence finding and defended a lack of response because of a large financial deal with the Saudis to purchase military equipment.
"Our intelligence agencies continue to assess all information, but it could very well be that the crown prince had knowledge of this tragic event — maybe he did and maybe he didn't!" Trump said in November.
He added that "we may never know" who was responsible.
Romney’s tweets come after Tom Barrack, a big Trump donor who headed his inaugural committee, said the United States didn’t have the moral right to criticize Saudi Arabia because America has its own record of “atrocities," CNN reported.
"I believe that the problem with what’s happened with the Khashoggi incident is the same problems of the West misunderstanding the East that’s existed since Sykes—Picot,” Barrack said, referencing a treaty that divvied up control of the Middle East in 1916. “So the West is confused that the rule of law — doesn’t understand what the rule of law is in the Kingdom.”
Barrack has since apologized for his comments.
Democrats have also been pressing the administration to explain its response to Khashoggi’s murder.
The Trump administration, against federal law, has not responded to Congress' request for a determination of who was responsible for the execution or any sanctions that should be applied to Saudi Arabia.
Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has demanded that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo turn over any documents related to the killing.
“Despite foreign and international officials investigating this matter who have concluded that senior Saudi officials bear responsibility for Mr. Khashoggi’s murder, this administration has been conspicuously reticent to hold senior officials and senior members of the Royal Family accountable,” Menendez wrote in a letter, The Hill newspaper reported.
Khashoggi was allegedly killed in the Saudi consulate – where he had gone to get documents to marry a Turkish woman – by a 15-man team who had ties to the crown prince's security detail. The journalist's body, reports say, was dismembered with a bone saw.
Romney, in November, had blasted Trump for not taking any action against Saudi Arabia following the CIA report on the killing.
“The President’s and Secretary of State’s Khashoggi statements to date are inconsistent with an enduring foreign policy, with our national interest, with basic human rights, and with American greatness,” Romney tweeted. “Sanctions do not necessarily require ending the alliance; they do demand real and painful consequence.”
That came after Trump denounced the killing but added, “The world is a very dangerous place!”