A U.S. intelligence report published on Friday concluded that bin Salman, commonly known as MBS in the west, approved of the killing of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018.
The Biden administration announced sanctions and visa bans aimed at citizens of Saudi Arabia but declined to target MBS specifically. Speaking to Senator Time Kaine (D-VA), Tapper harshly criticized the move.
“Nothing — nothing — for MBS. MBS is getting away scot-free. What do you make of that?” Tapper asked.
Kaine, who was the Democratic vice presidential nominee in 2016, sought to defend the decision but Tapper pressed on with criticism.
“When it comes to accountability for the guy that was in charge, who ordered the brutal assassination, murder, of your constituent, a Washington Post columnist, for the crime of writing a column that said there should be more freedom and democracy in Saudi Arabia, MBS is getting away scot-free,” Tapper said.
“How is that any different from Donald Trump? Joe Biden and Donald Trump have the same position — save MBS’ ass!”
Kaine said “the positions are not the same” and pointed to Biden’s different approach to Saudi Arabia.
“We’re going to have to explore in Congress what more we can do,” Kaine said.
Khashoggi was killed in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in 2018 and the kingdom’s authorities denied MBS played any role in his death. The journalist was resident in Virginia at the time.
The intelligence community concluded that MBS approved the killing because he had “control of decision making in the Kingdom” and due to the “direct involvement of a key adviser and members or Mohammed bin Salman’s protective detail in the operation.”
“Since 2017, the Crown Prince has had absolute control of the Kingdom’s security and intelligence organizations, making it highly unlikely that Saudi officials would have carried out an operation of this nature without the Crown Prince’s authorization,” the intel report said.
On Friday, the Treasury Department announced sanctions on Ahmed al-Asiri, former deputy Saudi intelligence chief, according to Reuters. Sanctions will also be imposed on the Saudi Royal Guard’s Rapid Intervention Force (RIF), along with visa restrictions for 76 individuals.
“As a matter of safety for all within our borders, perpetrators targeting perceived dissidents on behalf of any foreign government should not be permitted to reach American soil,” said Secretary of State Anthony Blinken.