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Senate Votes Unanimously to Condemn Saudi Prince as Responsible for Death of Journalist Jamal Khashoggi

The Senate voted unanimously Dec. 13 to condemn Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, holding him responsible for the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Khashoggi, once in favor with the government, left the country over disagreement with the crown prince’s aggressive authoritarian actions.

The Senate resolution states that the Senate “believes Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is responsible for the murder of Jamal Khashoggi” and “calls for the Government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to ensure appropriate accountability for all those responsible for Jamal Khashoggi’s murder.”

Saudi Arabia has admitted Khashoggi was murdered by members of its security forces and military on Oct. 2 at its embassy in Turkey. The government has arrested or fired many people identified as involved in arranging or carrying out the assassination, and five so far face the death penalty.

The CIA reportedly agrees that the prince ordered the murder, but he has so far avoided any repercussions from the U.S. Many international trading and security partners have avoided censuring him.

President Donald Trump had stated until recently that he didn’t believe the crown prince ordered the murder because the Saudi leader told Trump repeatedly that he had not. As recently as Nov. 17, the State Department declined to provide a conclusion on who had murdered Khashoggi. On Dec. 12, Trump told Reuters that Saudi Arabia was an important ally, and reiterated that the “crown prince vehemently denies” involvement. Trump didn’t immediately respond to today’s Senate action directly.

The Senate resolution also calls for the release of women’s rights activists Raif Badawi and Samar Badawi, and others arrested for advocating for women’s suffrage and other participation in Saudi society and government.

The resolution was introduced in the Senate by Republican Bob Corker. Despite its unanimous passage in the Senate, its future in the House is uncertain when that chamber resumes its session on Dec. 19.

A spokesperson for Paul Ryan, who remains House Speaker through early January, refused to tell CNN whether or not Ryan supported bringing the measure to a vote. Should the House vote on it and pass it, the president would still need to sign it. However, if the House passes it with a two-thirds majority, both chambers would have the votes to override a presidential veto, a rare event.

The last override of a presidential veto came during President Barack Obama’s administration, in September 2016, in which he turned down a bill that would have allowed victims of the 9/11 terrorist acts to sue Saudi Arabia. Both chambers overrode his veto with a 97-1 vote in the Senate and a 348-77 vote in the House.