Congress was heading for a showdown with President Trump on Sunday over sanctions against Saudi Arabia for the murder of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi, amid growing bipartisan criticism of the president’s reluctance to pin blame on the Saudi royal family.
Sen. Chris Murphy, Connecticut Democrat and a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said sanctions against Saudi Arabia are “probably the most appropriate step” after Mr. Trump skipped a congressional deadline Friday for delivering a report on who’s responsible for the slaying of Mr. Khashoggi.
“Congress doesn’t have to wait for the president to fulfill his duty,” Mr. Murphy said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “We can just make a determination ourselves that [Saudi Crown Prince] Mohammad bin Salman ordered these murders and there should be some kind of penalty and repercussions for that.”
A bipartisan group of lawmakers, including Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey and Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, introduced legislation Friday that would bar certain arms sales to Riyadh in response to Mr. Khashoggi’s murder last October by Saudi operatives, and its role in Yemen’s civil war.
“Seeing as the Trump administration has no intention of insisting on full accountability for Mr. Khashoggi’s murderers, it is time for Congress to step in and impose real consequences to fundamentally re-examine our relationship with the kingdom of Saudi Arabia and with the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen,” Mr. Menendez said in a statement.
Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said after meeting with lawmakers Friday that Congress should wait for the outcome of trials of 17 alleged assailants of Mr. Khashoggi, including five men who are facing the death penalty. He said imposing sanctions now would be “putting the cart before the horse.”
“I wish Congress would take a step back,” he said.
Mr. Al Jubeir insisted that the crown prince, who is the de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia, did not authorize the killing. He called the slaying a “rogue operation.”
“There was no order given to conduct this operation,” he said, describing the murder of the dissident as a “huge mistake.”Mr. Khashoggi, an American resident and a columnist for The Washington Post, was murdered last October at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, by the team of Saudi operatives. His body has not been recovered.
U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded that the crown prince at least had knowledge of the plot.
Mr. al-Jubeir called U.S. criticism of Saudi leadership “a red line.”
“I think for anyone to think they can dictate what we should do or what our leadership should do is...