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President Trump and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in the Oval Office on March 14, 2017. Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

The death of Jamal Khashoggi provides an opportunity for Congress to increase its oversight of the Trump administration’s foreign policy, particularly regarding Saudi Arabia. Though it has provided mutual economic and counterterrorism benefits over the decades, the U.S.–Saudi relationship has now become one-sided, leaving the U.S. vulnerable to manipulation when a crisis like the current one emerges.

The big picture: Congressional pressure — especially from GOP leaders like Senators Lindsey Graham and Rand Paul — can help get to the truth and compel Saudi Arabia to account meaningfully for its behavior.

There are several starting points for productive Congressional action:

  • Establish a Khashoggi select committee. Such a forum could help to establish what the Intelligence Community knew, what the White House communicated to Saudi Arabia over the 17 days between Khashoggi's murder and the Saudi admission of guilt, and what the administration can do to protect human rights in Saudi Arabia. A select committee would be required, because no single committee is equipped to take up issues that span diplomatic, military and intelligence jurisdictions.
  • Conduct a policy review. A public accounting of U.S.–Saudi relations is long overdue. Key topics would be religious extremism, human rights, counterterrorism cooperation, the Gulf crisis, Yemen, Iran, Israel-Palestine and oil. Jared Kushner's advisory role should also be explored, as he is understood to have been guiding relations between the two countries, including the decision for President Trump to make Saudi Arabia his first international visit.
  • Address the foreign policy personnel chaos. The administration has so far cycled through two secretaries of state and three national security advisors, and will soon be on its second UN Ambassador. Hearings should explore how turnover among leaders and other staff shortages constrain U.S. leadership and policy implementation.

The bottom line: Congress has largely deferred to the Trump administration on foreign policy, sometimes to the detriment of U.S. global leadership and interests. The Khashoggi affair is a critical moment to reverse course.

Joel Rubin is the president of the Washington Strategy Group and a former deputy assistant secretary of state.

Go deeper

Lawmakers call for Israel-Hamas ceasefire amid aerial bombardments

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Sen. Todd Young (R-Ind.) and 28 Senate Democrats on Sunday called for a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas as fighting continued into the night.

Driving the news: In the first bipartisan call for a ceasefire, Young, a ranking member of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Near East, South Asia, Central Asia and Counterterrorism, joined its Chair Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) a statement saying: "Israel has the right to defend itself from Hamas' rocket attacks, in a manner proportionate with the threat its citizens are facing.

Bill Gates faces scrutiny over relationship with Microsoft employee, Epstein ties

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Representatives for Bill Gates pushed back on claims Sunday that he left Microsoft's board because of an earlier sexual relationship and against two other reports detailing more extensive ties with Jeffrey Epstein than had previously been reported.

Driving the news: Microsoft said in an emailed statement to Axios that it "received a concern" in 2019 that its co-founder "sought to initiate an intimate relationship with a company employee in the year 2000," but denied a Wall Street Journal report that its board members thought Gates should resign over the matter.

AT&T in talks with Discovery to combine media assets

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AT&T is in talks with media giant Discovery about merging its media assets, like CNN, TBS and TNT, according to two sources familiar with the discussions.

Why it matters: A potential merger could allow AT&T and Discovery to better compete with entertainment giants like Disney and Netflix in the video streaming wars.