Sasse: Ending arms sales to Saudis 'should be on the table'

Arms sales not about profit, GOP senator says

By CNN'S EUAN MCKIRDY, KEVIN LIPTAK, SARAH SIRGANY CLARISSA WARD, MICK KREVER AND ELI WATKINS CONTRIBUTED TO THIS REPORT.
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GOP Sen. Ben Sasse says the disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi will not be "swept under the rug," and that he believes there should be an "international investigation" into what happened.

(CNN) - Sen. Ben Sasse said Sunday that ending arms sales to Saudi Arabia in response to the country's involvement in the death of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi "should be on the table."

"We don't do arms sales for the purposes of the profits from arms sales. We do arms sales because we want to be allied with different countries around the globe that believe in our values and have a long-term sense of what we're up to together and why we have that alliance," Sasse, a Republican from Nebraska, told CNN's Jake Tapper on "State of the Union."

"(The) Saudis got a lot of explaining to do," he said.

US arms sales to the Saudis have become a topic of debate in recent days as the investigation into Khashoggi's death has called into question the US' relationship with the country.

On Friday, the Saudis admitted the death of Khashoggi, saying it happened after a fistfight involving more than a dozen Saudi officials at the country's consulate in Istanbul. President Donald Trump, responding to the news, said he would work with Congress to develop a response to Khashoggi's death, but said that he didn't want sanctions to affect US arms sales to the kingdom.

"I would prefer if there is going to be some form of sanctions -- this was a lot of people they're talking about ... I would prefer we don't use as retribution (canceling) $110 billion worth of work," the President told reporters in Arizona.

On Sunday, Sasse told Tapper that arms sales "are always means to an end. They're not the end."

"The end is the American idea. And the end is stability in the world so that problems abroad don't come home to roost for us," he said.

Sasse also said that he doesn't believe Saudi Arabia's explanation of Khashoggi's death.

"I think the cover stories from the Saudis are a mess" he said. "You don't bring a bone saw to an accidental fist fight."

Sasse previously told CNN last week that the disappearance of Khashoggi will not be "swept under the rug," and that he believes there should be an "international investigation" into what happened.

Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul also weighed in on the matter, telling Fox News on Sunday that he also doesn't believe the explanation from the Saudis and that he wants the US to end arms sales to the country.

"I think we really need to discontinue our arms sales to Saudi Arabia and have a long and serious discussion about whether or not they want to be an ally or they want to be an enemy," he said, adding that sanctions "don't go far enough."

Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said in an interview that aired Sunday morning on Fox News that Paul and others were announcing conclusions before all of the facts were in.

"I would respectfully urge members of Congress to wait until they have the facts and then judge the results of the facts and take positions then," he said.

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