GOP Lawmaker Defends Trump After Khashoggi Response: ‘Journalists Disappear All Over The Country’

Chris Stewart (R-UT) at a town hall meeting in March
George Frey / Getty Images

On Tuesday, Representative Chris Stewart of Utah defended U.S. President Donald Trump’s response to the brutal murder of dissident Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi Arabian Consulate in Istanbul, Turkey on October 2. Following the Washington Post columnist’s disappearance, after he had arrived at the consulate for an appointment, fingers were immediately pointed from around the globe at Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. That is, from everyone but Trump.

While some have been harshly criticizing Trump for his refusal to condemn the de facto leader of the Middle Eastern country, there are those who have come out in support of his stance. As reported by CNN Politics, Stewart is one of them.

“We have to have a relationship with some players we don’t agree with,” he explained.

“Journalists disappear all over the country.”

Just a few weeks ago, the CIA concluded from their investigation that Bin Salman was responsible for Khashoggi’s killing, but Trump has still not come out to condemn the murder of a permanent resident of the United States, instead coming out to say that it was “terrible” but that Saudi Arabia is a “great ally.” This came after weeks of speculation, and with Riyadh repeatedly changing its story on what had happened after Khashoggi had entered the consulate.

“This is a very, very difficult challenge because we have to, on one hand, hold them accountable — including the crown prince for whatever action he may have been involved with,” Stewart added.

“And at the same time what is protecting U.S. interests? What is going to counter Shia extremists? What is going to help bring stability? What will help bring an end to the war in Yemen? You have to balance all those considerations as we move forward on this.”

Backtracking slightly after speaking to CNN, Stewart clarified that the U.S. cannot ignore “the murder of any journalist.” He continued, saying that America has to achieve two things with its reaction to this heinous crime: Protect important human rights, but still manage to maintain relationships with key allies.

Prior to Stewart’s statements, CIA Director Gina Haspel on Tuesday briefed lawmakers about the agency’s findings from the investigation. Sen. Bob Corker, a Tennessee Republican who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told CNN shortly afterward that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman “ordered [and] monitored the killing” of Khashoggi.

Stewart added that it would be important for the U.S. to have all the information before coming up with an appropriate response to the crime.