Rand Paul: Saudi explanation for Khashoggi death is ‘insulting’

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GOP Sen. Rand Paul said Saudi Arabia’s explanation for the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in its consulate in Turkey was “insulting,” as lawmakers on both sides of the aisle urged more pressure be put on the ruling royal family to discover what really happened.

“Absolutely not, it’s insulting,” Paul said on “Fox News Sunday” when asked if he believed Khashoggi was killed after getting into a fistfight with Saudi security officials after entering the consulate on Oct. 2.

The Kentucky legislator also said he doesn’t believe Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman’s denials that he had anything to do with the killing of Khashoggi, who was highly critical of the 33-year-old prince’s government in his writings for the Washington Post.

“I think it stretches credulity to believe the Crown Prince wasn’t involved in this,” he added. “And I think that’s the way they’re gonna write this off.”

“There’s no way 15 people were sent to Turkey to kill a dissident without the approval of the crown prince,” he added.

Turkish officials say a 15-member team, including Saudi security officials and an autopsy expert with a bone saw, arrived in Turkey the same day Khashoggi vanished after entering the consulate.

President Trump acknowledged that “there’s been deception and there’s been lies” from the Saudis, but he has no proof the crown prince orchestrated the killing.

“Nobody has told me he’s responsible. Nobody has told me he’s not responsible. We haven’t reached that point. … I would love if he wasn’t responsible,” Trump told The Washington Post in an interview published late Saturday.

Calling the kingdom an “incredible ally,” Trump was also reluctant to kill a proposed deal to sell Saudi Arabia $110 billion in arms.

“To give that up would hurt us far more than it hurts them. Then all they’ll do is go to Russia or go to China. All that’s doing is hurting us,” the president said.

Republican Sen. Bob Corker said if it’s determined that Prince Mohammed was behind Khashoggi’s death the global community needs to come up with a “collective” response to his actions.

“If [the crown prince] has gone forth and murdered this journalist, he’s now crossed the line,” Corker said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “I’m not rushing to judgment. Do I think he did it? Yes, I think he did it.”

“If he did it then I think there should be a collective response,” said Corker, a member of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee.

He said he believes France, Germany and the United Kingdom will join with the US to respond “in an appropriate way.”

Paul said the US must take a strong stand.

“We have to be stronger than just saying, ‘Oh, we’re gonna sanction a few of these people and pretend like we’re doing something,’” Paul said. “I think we really need to discontinue our arms sales to Saudi Arabia and have a long and serious discussion about whether or not they want to be an ally or they want to be an enemy.”

Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin said the US should oust the kingdom’s ambassador “tomorrow morning.”

“We ought to formally expel the Saudi ambassador from the United States until there is a completion of a third-party investigation into this kidnap, murder and god-knows-what-followed that occurred in Istanbul,” he said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

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