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

Donald Trump claims Joe Biden is
Donald Trump claims Joe Biden is 'against God;' Biden aides call Trump a hypocritical divider

Biden has often talked about how his Catholic faith helped him survive the death of his first wife and their daughter in a 1972 car crash.

Trump's top Iran envoy quits as US bids to extend Tehran embargo
  • World
  • 2020-08-06 19:46:02Z

* Elliott Abrams, key figure in Iran-Contra affair, to take over * US intends to bring UN resolution to extend arms embargoThe Trump administration's lead diplomat on Iran, Brian Hook, has announced his resignation days before the US attempts a high-stakes gambit against Tehran at the United Nations.He will be replaced by Elliott Abrams, who will combine the Iran special representative job with his current role as special envoy for Venezuela. Abrams is a hawk on both countries - and has combined Iranian and Latin American issues before, when he was a significant figure in the Iran-Contra affair under the Reagan administration.Hook, until now a rare survivor at the top levels of the state...

The Unique U.S. Failure to Control the Virus
The Unique U.S. Failure to Control the Virus
  • World
  • 2020-08-06 19:05:31Z

Nearly every country has struggled to contain the coronavirus and made mistakes along the way.China committed the first major failure, silencing doctors who tried to raise alarms about the virus and allowing it to escape from Wuhan. Much of Europe went next, failing to avoid enormous outbreaks. Today, many countries -- Japan, Canada, France, Australia and more -- are coping with new increases in cases after reopening parts of society.Yet even with all of these problems, one country stands alone as the only affluent nation to have suffered a severe, sustained outbreak for more than four months: the United States.When it comes to the virus, the United States has come to resemble not the...

Republicans Aid Kanye West
Republicans Aid Kanye West's Bid to Get on the 2020 Ballot

At least four people who have been active in Republican politics are linked to Kanye West's attempt to get on the presidential ballot this year. The connection raises questions about the aims of the entertainer's effort and whether it is regarded within the GOP as a spoiler campaign that could aid President Donald Trump, even as those close to West have expressed concerns about his mental health as he enters the political arena.One operative, Mark Jacoby, is an executive at a company called Let the Voters Decide, which has been collecting signatures for the West campaign in three states. Jacoby was arrested on voter fraud charges in 2008 while he was doing work for the California...

Trump says he may suspend payroll tax himself
Trump says he may suspend payroll tax himself

U.S. President Donald Trump said on Wednesday he may suspend the payroll tax himself as part of his administration's efforts to help the economy after the coronavirus shutdown, after the idea faced opposition in Congress in talks on the next relief bill. "Well I may do it myself," Trump

Leave a Comment

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

Cancel reply


Top News: Politics