CNN’s Dana Bash called out President Joe Biden’s administration on Sunday over its inaction against Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) for his role in the 2018 murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki appeared on “State of the Union” Sunday and was asked by Bash why Biden hasn’t imposed any sort of punishment on MBS for his reported involvement in the murder when, as a candidate, Biden said he would hold Saudi leaders accountable for the “pariah that they are.” (RELATED: ‘Save MBS’ Ass’: Jake Tapper Says Donald Trump And Joe Biden Share Same Position On Khashoggi Murder)
“From the first day of the administration, we have been crystal clear at every level, from the president on down, we are going to recalibrate this relationship and turn the page from the last four years,” Psaki responded. “The release of this report, which was held back over the last four years, is part of that, making that clear to the public.”
“But we’ve also taken a number of steps through the Treasury Department, through the State Department, to sanction the deputy head of intelligence, to sanction their revolutionary forces in Saudi Arabia, and to make clear that we will never let this happen again. And that’s a message we’ve clearly sent over the last few days,” she continued.
The Office of the Director of National Intelligence released the declassified report on Khashoggi’s murder on Friday. It found that MBS ordered the murder and that it was carried out with his knowledge. The Biden administration did not include MBS in the group of individuals sanctioned following the release of the report because they viewed targeting him as an act that could damage the relationship between Saudi Arabia and the U.S., the New York Times reported.
“But you’re talking about the people who are under the Crown Prince, and they are being punished. So isn’t punishing them like punishing the hitman and not the mob boss, who actually put out the hit?” Bash asked.
Psaki responded, explaining that “in recent history” no administration has put sanctions on leaders of foreign governments that the U.S. has diplomatic relations with. She said that they believe there are “more effective ways” to make sure this doesn’t happen again and at the same time to leave room to work with the Saudi’s on other issues.
“That is what diplomacy looks like and complicated global engagement looks like, and we have made no secret and been clear we are going to hold them accountable on the global stage and with direct actions,” she added.
Bash continued challenging Psaki, saying, “I hear you, but you say hold them accountable and it just doesn’t look like that when it comes to the notion of justice. And, the question is do you feel like justice has really been done when it comes specifically to the Crown Prince and his role in the brutal murder of a journalist, because the journalist was working on stories that were challenging him?”
Psaki responded that Biden believes that it was a “horrific crime,” and that anyone who “threatens journalists” and dissidents should be held accountable and “have their travel visas revoked.” She added that the administration believes the relationship with Saudi Arabia needs to be maintained, albeit “recalibrated,” but that they will be held accountable for “human rights abuses.”
“I hear a lot of things that sound like the Biden administration is showing the Saudis in general some outrage and some consequences, but not specifically for the Crown Prince,” Bash responded.
“You know, and there are a lot of questions we can continue to ask about that, including President Biden promising that America is back and the question of whether or not the world will see that America is back if somebody who directs the brutal murder of a journalist is not specifically held accountable,” she concluded.