CNN’s Dana Bash pressed Secretary of State Antony Blinken over whether or not he considered Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman (MBS) “a killer” during Sunday’s broadcast of “State of the Union.”
Bash sought to draw a comparison between President Joe Biden’s views of Russian President Vladimir Putin as “a killer” and his views of MBS, following U.S. action taken against certain Saudis over the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018. (RELATED: ‘Punishing The Hit Man And Not The Mob Boss’: CNN’s Dana Bash Calls Out Biden’s Inaction Against Saudi Crown Prince Over Khashoggi Murder)
“The Biden administration did not directly punish Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman after the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, despite an intelligence report saying that he was directly responsible for approving his murder,” Bash began. “President Biden didn’t hesitate to call Vladimir Putin a killer. Do you consider Mohammed Bin Salman a killer?”
Blinken responded that the administration put the intelligence report on the murder of Khashoggi “in the full light of day,” and that “in and of itself is significant.” He added it was important for the U.S. government to release the information it had on who was responsible for Khashoggi’s murder.
“We sanctioned a number of direct participants in the murder of Mr. Khashoggi, and … we put in place something called the Khashoggi ban, which makes sure that anyone, who on behalf of the government, tries to intimidate, silence, or do harm to someone speaking out against that government, whether it’s a dissident, a political opponent, or a journalist … we’re going to make sure that person doesn’t set foot in the United States, and that applies not just to Saudi Arabia. It applies to around the world,” Blinken continued.
“You have been transparent and you have been very clear about … the Saudi Crown Prince’s role. So is he a killer?” Bash asked again.
Blinken answered that the U.S. has to deal with leaders of other countries who do things that are “objectionable” and “abhorrent” everyday, but in order to advance the interests and values of the U.S., “it’s important to deal with them.” He added that it’s “likely” MBS will be the leader of Saudi Arabia “far into the future,” and there’s a strong interest in working on things with them, such as ending the war in Yemen.
“In terms of advancing human rights and progress in Saudi Arabia itself, are we better off recalibrating the relationship as we did or rupturing it? I think that in terms of actually making a difference on the things we care about, the recalibration was very necessary, and the president has been clear about that, but rupturing the relationship actually won’t help us advance our interests or values,” he concluded.
The Office of the Director of National Intelligence released the declassified report on Khashoggi’s murder in February. It found that MBS ordered the murder and that it was carried out with his knowledge. The Biden administration did not include MBS in the group of individuals sanctioned following the release of the report because they viewed targeting him as an act that could damage the relationship between Saudi Arabia and the U.S., the New York Times reported.
Earlier in March, Biden called Putin, who has been suspected of having his critics assassinated, “a killer” during an interview on ABC News. He also vowed Putin would “pay a price” for interfering in American elections.