From his perch on the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., hit the Sunday morning talk shows focused on missing journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a columnist for the Washington Post and a critic of the Saudi regime, who was last seen entering that nation’s consulate in Istanbul last week.

Rubio took to the national airwaves on Sunday, appearing on CNN’s State of the Union, CBS’s Face the Nation and NBC’s Meet the Press to discuss the matter.

Talking to CNN, Rubio said the U.S. had to take the matter seriously.

“I don’t think we should continue as business as usual, until we know what’s happened here. Because what we do know is this, he walked into that consulate and he never came out. So the only two things that could have happened is, he’s alive and somehow still in there or he’s dead, and the Saudi’s are the ones who did it. There’s no other explanation for it, because if there was video of him leaving, they would have shown it by now,” Rubio said.

“I don’t think we should go [to the economic conference in Riyadh] I don’t think any of our government officials should be going and pretending as if it’s business as usual until we know exactly what’s happened here,” Rubio added.

On Face the Nation, Rubio said there was no support in Congress for Saudi Arabia and it was time to get tough with that nation.

“If everyone is waiting to find exactly out what happened, and frankly, this is the kind of case where we may never know exactly what happened—I mean, there’s a denial,” Rubio said. “With that said, there are news reports out there that there is some sort of audio, video evidence of what occurred. If that were to emerge or any other facts were to emerge, or frankly, if questions here aren’t answered—there’s no video of him leaving that facility—there’s going to be a big problem. I can just tell you that in Congress right now, there is no ‘pro-Saudi’ element that’s going to stick with our relationship with Saudi Arabia as it’s currently structured. If in fact they lured this man into this consulate, killed him, and then, you know, cut up his body, and sent a team to go into that country to kill him in the first place, this is just an unacceptable thing. We should never accept that from anyone in the world. It undermines our credibility, and our moral authority around the planet to go after regimes like Putin’s, or Maduro in Venezuela or others. As far as options that are concerned, people talk a lot about the arm sales, our relationship with Saudi Arabia extends well beyond arm sales as well, and I would just say it’s unfortunate because Saudi Arabia is an important part of our Middle Eastern strategy. They are a key leverage and hedgepoint against reigning influence in the region, but that cannot supersede our commitment to human rights.”

Speaking to NBC, Rubio said arm sales were only way the U.S. supported Saudi Arabia.

“Arms sales to Saudi Arabia are very important, not because of money but because…they would buy them from somebody else. If they buy it from us, they need replacement parts. They need training the sort of things that gives us leverage over them. So there’s advantages to arms sales that have nothing to do with money,” Rubio said.

“That said, our moral credibility – our ability to call Putin a murderer because he is, our ability to call Assad a murderer because he is, our ability to confront Maduro in Venezuela or any of these human rights atrocities, like what we see in China – all of that is undermined and compromised if we somehow decide that because an ally who’s important as that we are not going to call it out,” Rubio added. “So I would just say this to you, with full confidence, if this is proven to be true there is going to be a response from Congress that is going to be nearly unanimous it’s going to be swift and it’s going to go pretty far. And that could include arms sales but it could include a bunch of other things as well.

“When all the evidence is in we’ll see,” Rubio said in conclusion. “Ultimately I do believe that the White House, if this has happened and it could be proven, would do something significant about it. I believe they’ll do it. I know Congress will do it.”

In the meantime, President Donald Trump has ordered U.S. Sec. of State Mike Pompeo to meet with the Saudi king on the matter.

 

Kevin Derby can be reached at Kevin.Derby@floridadaily.com

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