Sen. Chris Van HollenChristopher (Chris) Van HollenDem senator: ‘Shameful’ seeing Trump serve as ‘mouthpiece’ for Saudi leaders Overnight Defense: Trump says ‘rogue killers’ could be behind missing journalist | Sends Pompeo to meet Saudi king | Saudis may claim Khashoggi killed by accident | Ex-VA chief talks White House ‘chaos’ | Most F-35s cleared for flight Democrats torch Trump for floating ‘rogue killers’ to blame for missing journalist MORE (D-Md.) on Wednesday accused President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump renews attacks against Tester over VA nominee on eve of Montana rally Trump submits 2017 federal income tax returns Corker: Trump administration ‘clamped down’ on Saudi intel, canceled briefing MORE of being a “mouthpiece” for Saudi Arabian leadership amid scrutiny of its government over the disappearance and alleged slaying of U.S.-based journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
“I am confident that you will have people come together to impose sanctions on the individuals responsible, and that has to include the Crown Prince [Mohammed bin Salman] if it turns out that he is involved,” Van Hollen said on MSNBC’s “Andrea Mitchell Reports.”
“And all of the evidence is suggesting that this could not have happened without him giving the green light, and it is shameful to see the president of the United States be the mouthpiece for the regime,” the Democratic senator added.
Van Hollen’s remarks come as Trump this week has echoed repeated denials by Saudi officials surrounding the disappearance of Khashoggi, a critic of Saudi leadership who served as an opinion contributor to The Washington Post.
Turkish authorities have asserted that Saudi operatives dismembered and killed Khashoggi shortly after he entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2, when he was last seen.
Reports emerged earlier this week that Saudi leadership planned to admit that a group of agents killed Khashoggi during a “botched interrogation.” They reportedly intended to say the incident occurred without the knowledge of Saudi leaders, including the crown prince.
On Monday, Trump raised the possibility that “rouge killers” were responsible for the journalist’s disappearance, echoing a narrative that the Saudis intended to release, The New York Times reported.
The following day, he took to Twitter to announce that he “just spoke with the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia who totally denied any knowledge of what took place in their Turkish Consulate.”
Hours earlier, the president sent a tweet denying having any financial interests in Saudi Arabia, pushing back on speculation that he was treading lightly with the Saudis over Khashoggi because of any financial conflicts of interest.
“For the record, I have no financial interests in Saudi Arabia (or Russia, for that matter),” he wrote. “Any suggestion that I have is just more FAKE NEWS (of which there is plenty)!”
As a real-estate mogul Trump has had long-standing and close business ties to Saudi Arabia, with Saudis spending significant amounts of money at his hotels and properties over decades.
“We have seen in the public reporting that the intelligence agencies do not believe this could have possibly happened without the approval of higher-ups like the crown prince,” Van Hollen said during his appearance on MSNBC of Khashoggi’s disappearance.
“And so for the president of the United States to be involved in trying to whitewash this is shameful and that is why Congress is going to have to step in on a bipartisan basis.”
Van Hollen also hit White House senior adviser Jared KushnerJared Corey KushnerMueller assembles team of cooperators in Russian probe Secret Service: Agent who blocked reporter questioning Kushner reacted to ‘abrupt movement’ Kushner and Saudi crown prince communicated informally on WhatsApp: report MORE‘s close relationship with the Saudi crown prince, whom he has previously praised as a type of reformer in his country.
“The president and Jared Kushner have put all of their eggs in the Saudi regime basket for all sorts of things, and they cannot stand the idea that the person they embraced ordered a hit on a Washington Post columnist overseas,” the senator said.
Multiple lawmakers have vowed to take action if evidence emerges that the Saudis were behind the alleged slaying of Khashoggi, who was living in self-imposed exile in Virginia before entering the Saudi consulate to obtain documents for his marriage.
Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamGOP leaders hesitant to challenge Trump on Saudi Arabia Election Countdown: O’Rourke goes on the attack | Takeaways from fiery second Texas Senate debate | Heitkamp apologizes for ad misidentifying abuse victims | Trump Jr. to rally for Manchin challenger | Rick Scott leaves trail to deal with hurricane damage Five things to know about ‘MBS,’ Saudi Arabia’s crown prince MORE (R-S.C.) on Tuesday threatened to “sanction the hell out of Saudi Arabia” and blamed the country’s crown prince for Khashoggi’s disappearance.