Statement by Foreign Affairs Committee Vice Chair Rep. Tom Malinowski on the Release of the Khashoggi Report

February 26, 2021
Press Release

(Washington, DC) “I welcome the overdue release of the DNI’s report confirming the judgement of the intelligence community that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was responsible for the entrapment and gruesome murder of Virginia-resident and journalist Jamal Khashoggi. The House of Representatives called for this report on a fully bipartisan basis nearly two years ago, when it voted  405-7 to pass my bill, the Saudi Arabia Human Rights and Accountability Act. While common sense and numerous unclassified reports have long pointed to the ultimate culpability of bin Salman, an official assessment by the U.S. government was needed for the sake of honesty and transparency, and to rebalance our relationship with Saudi Arabia so that it better serves American interests and principles. 

The release of this report sends a clear message to Mohammed bin Salman: The United States will no longer cover up your crimes to protect our relationship with you. You need to stop committing crimes if you want to protect your relationship with us.

It also sends a message to the world: The United States will not tolerate any leader of any country reaching into our country to harm someone for the peaceful exercise of their views. Those who do so show not only a lack of respect for human rights, but a lack of respect for the United States. 

Having released this information, it is now important that the administration act on it.

First, as the Saudi Arabia Human Rights and Accountability Act required, the Biden administration should —at a minimum—prohibit entry into the U.S. for the murder’s perpetrators, including Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. This is required under mandatory provisions of Section 7031(c) of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, which imposes visa ineligibilities on “officials of foreign governments and their immediate family members about whom the Secretary of State has credible information have been involved, directly or indirectly, in…a gross violation of human rights.” 

Second, the administration should do more to protect Americans from the surveillance that preceded and enabled the murder of Mr. Khashoggi. The Saudi government likely spied on Mr. Khashoggi’s communications with associates while he lived in the U.S., monitoring his contacts and tracking his movements using spyware tools that are marketed commercially for "preventing and investigating serious crime.” I urge the administration to develop a comprehensive strategy for confronting the emerging transnational threat to democracy and human rights presented by companies that market such powerful tools of repression.

Finally, serious questions remain about whether it is possible for the United States to rebuild a partnership with the Saudi monarchy’s younger generation in a manner that is consistent with our values and interests. Over the past several years, Mohammed bin Salman’s actions — from his murder of Mr. Khashoggi, to his imprisonment of U.S. citizens, to his persecution of women’s rights activists, to the escalation of the war in Yemen — have eroded the strong, bipartisan support for the U.S.-Saudi partnership that once existed in the United States. It is not for Americans to tell Saudis who should lead their Kingdom. But I hope our friends in Saudi Arabia will consider whether it is wise to grant absolute power to someone whose consistently reckless actions make it increasingly hard for their most important security partner to maintain a relationship with them. 

Furthermore, I welcome the State Department’s new Khashoggi Ban policy, tackling the emerging threat of authoritarian leaders reaching across their borders to threaten critics and dissidents. This firm response is directly in line with a request I led with Senator Whitehouse and other colleagues for President Biden to address this disturbing trend.” 

* Congressman Malinowski’s January 2021 letter with Congressional leaders to Secretary Blinken on the need to recalibrate relations with Saudi Arabia here  

* Congressman Malinowski’s July 2019 statement on the passage by the House of Representatives of transparency and accountability measures for Khashoggi’s murder here