Lawmakers seek suspension, review of US training for Saudis

  • In Politics
  • 2019-12-08 17:40:27Z
  • By Associated Press
Naval Air Station Shooting
Naval Air Station Shooting  

WASHINGTON (AP) - A top Republican ally of President Donald Trump went a step further than the White House on Sunday by calling for Saudi Arabia to be suspended from an American military training program after a student pilot from the kingdom shot and killed three sailors at a U.S. naval base in Florida.

Trump had called for the program to be reviewed but Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said he wanted more.

"We need to suspend the Saudi program until we find out what happened here," he said, adding that he likes the idea of training foreign pilots and helping them understand how the U.S. system works.

"But there's something really bad here," Graham said. "We need to slow this program down and reevaluate."

Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., whose district includes the base in Pensacola, said Friday's shooting "has to inform our ongoing relationship with Saudi Arabia."

Gaetz, who, like Graham, is an outspoken defender of Trump during the impeachment inquiry being led by House Democrats, declined to criticize the president when asked whether Trump has been tough enough with Saudi Arabia.

He said he and Trump have been communicating regularly, and appeared to also call for the program's suspension.

"We should not be taking new incoming Saudi students until we're absolutely confident in our vetting process," Gaetz said.

The U.S. has long had a robust training program for Saudis, providing assistance in the U.S. and in the kingdom. Currently, more than 850 Saudis are in the United States for various training activities. They are among more than 5,000 foreign students from 153 countries in the U.S. going through military training.

The FBI has identified Friday's shooter as Mohammed Alshamrani, 21. Investigators said he was a 2nd Lt. in the Royal Saudi Air Force and a student naval flight officer of Naval Aviation Schools Command.

Alshamrani opened fire inside a classroom at the naval base, killing three people and wounding two sheriff's deputies before one of the officers killed him, authorities said. Eight other people were also wounded.

The FBI announced Sunday that it was working on the presumption that the shooting was an act of terrorism, a point echoed hours earlier by Robert O'Brien, Trump's national security adviser. The FBI was also interviewing acquaintances and following up on a visit by Alshamrani to New York City, including Rockefeller Center, in the run-up to Friday.

Democratic presidential candidate Cory Booker faulted Trump for taking what he said is a "transactional" approach to U.S. relations with the Saudi kingdom focused on financial interests and not moral values.

Booker, a New Jersey senator, said the relationship is "unacceptable"' and promised to change it if he is elected president next year.

Trump has appeared more interested in promises by the Saudis to spend billions buying American weapons than in in holding the kingdom accountable for human rights violations, including the killing in 2018 of Washington Post writer Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Turkey. Khashoggi was a critic of Saudi Arabia.

U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded that knowledge of Khashoggi's killing reached the highest levels of the monarchy, but Trump declined last year to penalize Saudia Arabia over the slaying.

Trump told an interviewer this year that Saudi Arabia buys a lot of American products and "that means something to me." He argued that if he refuses to sell to the Saudis, they will turn around and buy weapons from U.S. rivals such as China and Russia.

Gaetz and Booker were interviewed on ABC's "This Week,"' Graham appeared on Fox News Channel's "Sunday Morning Futures" and O'Brien spoke on CBS' "Face the Nation."


Follow Darlene Superville on Twitter:


More Related News

House Democrats call Trump a
House Democrats call Trump a 'danger' to U.S. national security in formal argument for his removal

Trump's legal team told the Senate that impeachment was an attempt to overturn the 2016 election and that the articles were legally defective.

Inside look at Melania Trump
Inside look at Melania Trump's daily diet, including her favorite meal

A former model, Melania is no stranger to a healthy lifestyle.

AP source: Dershowitz, Starr on Trump impeachment legal team
AP source: Dershowitz, Starr on Trump impeachment legal team

President Donald Trump's legal team will include former Harvard University law professor Alan Dershowitz and Ken Starr, the former independent counsel who led the Whitewater investigation into President Bill Clinton, according to a person familiar with the matter. The team will also include Pam

Trump again denied knowing Lev Parnas. So Parnas
Trump again denied knowing Lev Parnas. So Parnas' lawyer posted more robust proof.

Despite a warning from Lev Parnas, President Trump claimed not to know him again Thursday. "I don't know Parnas, other than I guess I had pictures taken, which I do with thousands of people," Trump told reporters in the Oval Office. "I don't know him at all, don't know what he's about, don't know where he comes from, know nothing about him. ... I don't believe I've ever spoken to him."Jospeh Bondy, Parnas' lawyer, brought the receipts, posting a video taken at Mar-a-Lago in December 2016, where Trump is clearly talking with Parnas, who is standing next to him and also Roman Nasirov, a former Ukrainian official charged with embezzlement.> Here's the "I don't know him...

Honduran migrant caravan rumbles on through Guatemala
Honduran migrant caravan rumbles on through Guatemala

More than 1,000 Honduran migrants broke through a police barrier on the border with Guatemala on Thursday in a bid to join hundreds of others heading for the United States. The latest Central American migrant caravan formed despite increased attempts by President Donald Trump to keep them out of the US. Last year the US signed a deal with Guatemala that obliges migrants traveling through it and seeking asylum in the US to first request protection in the Central American nation.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked with *

Cancel reply


Top News: Politics