WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Chris Coons (D-Del.), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, last night joined CNN’s Cuomo Prime Time.
“Whether it was to kidnap and interrogate a journalist or whether it was with the intention of killing him, either way they bear the responsibility for an interrogation, whether it was intended to lead to his death or intended to simply lead to his kidnapping,” said Senator Coons. “Either of those count as a fundamental violation of human rights under the Global Magnitsky Act. And it is something that I think we in the Senate should take a strong stand here. If President Trump won't send a strong signal that the United States still puts values, values like protecting human rights and protecting journalists, ahead of our interests, such as arms deals with the Saudis, then the Senate should step forward and do it.”
Full video and audio available here.
Excerpts from the interview:
Sen. Coons on Sen. Warren's DNA test: Great to be with you again, Chris. What a striking day it's been in terms of so many different developments, from Jamal Khashoggi's disappearance and likely murder at the hands of the Saudis to the result of Senator Warren's DNA test that you just referenced. I think it's really striking that Donald Trump got his start in politics by challenging President Obama's citizenship, his birtherism escapade, where once it was proven, of course, that President Obama was in fact born in Hawaii, in the United States, Trump really did not ever concede that he'd been wrong all along. I frankly think this is just another episode where although the President very publicly said he'd pay a million dollars to her favorite charity if she took a DNA test. She's done it. She's put to rest his, I think, juvenile, offensive, and inappropriate suggestions using his nickname for her that somehow she didn't know her own family history. And I think it's best for everybody if we move on here and recognize that this is just another episode that was beneath the President.
Sen. Coons on Jamal Khashoggi: It's not okay. And as you referenced, 20 members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, an equal number of Republicans and Democrats, signed a letter to President Trump starting the 120-day process under the Global Magnitsky Act under which he has to determine what happened and recommend the imposition of sanctions if he finds a violation of human rights. Of course, Chris, it's not okay for the Saudis to send a team to their consulate in Turkey, in Istanbul. Whether it was to kidnap and interrogate a journalist or whether it was with the intention of killing him, either way they bear the responsibility for an interrogation, whether it was intended to lead to his death or intended to simply lead to his kidnapping. Either of those count as a fundamental violation of human rights under the Global Magnitsky Act. And it is something that I think we in the Senate should take a strong stand here. If President Trump won't send a strong signal that the United States still puts values, values like protecting human rights and protecting journalists, ahead of our interests, such as arms deals with the Saudis, then the Senate should step forward and do it.
More on Khashoggi: Well what concerns me most about his conduct in the world is the ways that it weakens us. When he seems more eager to stand up to our close and valued allies like Justin Trudeau in Canada or Angela Merkel in Germany and to embrace or excuse or believe dictators like Kim Jong-un or Duterte in the Philippines or Putin in Russia or in this case King Salman of Saudi Arabia or the Crown Prince. If this proves true that they directed, ordered a kidnapping and murder of a journalist, an American resident, someone a critic of the Saudi royal family at times, then that would be the latest in a disturbing line of incidents where it maybe that our own President's statements, his calling the press the enemy of the people, made the suggestion to the Saudis that they could do something like this and get away with it. So here is an opportunity for President Trump to step forward in the tradition of Republican presidents like Ronald Reagan and show that we do put human rights first. That's something that both Republican and Democratic presidents have taken strong efforts and decisive actions to show the world that we don't just lead with our interests. We also, more importantly at times, lead with our values.
Sen. Coons on Trump's statements on Saudi Arabia: Well that win at all costs approach to politics is, I think, dangerously debasing. The reasons that people do get into public service or politics, which is not to win at all costs, but to win based on principle. He did in that same interview, Chris, in answering the question, "What sort of action will you take against the Saudis if these allegations are true?" he cited a $110 billion in defense contracts. First that is just wrong on the facts. That got Four Pinocchio's from Fact Checker. It's more like $4 billion in defense contracts that have been signed since his visit last year. Nothing like $110 billion. And frankly, regardless of how large the contracts might be, in matters of principle of values we have to weigh them very heavily and at times put them in front of sort of narrow or short-term economic interests for the country. Because what America stands for that distinguishes us from other countries is that we will put our values at the head of the line of our national interests.