Updated Feb 4, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Khashoggi's fiancée to attend Trump's State of the Union

Hatice Cengiz speaks during an exclusive interview in the U.S. on May 18, 2019. Photo: Yasin Ozturk/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) announced Monday that he's taking researcher Hatice Cengiz, the fiancée of slain Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, as his guest to this week's State of the Union.

Driving the news: It's an attempt to press President Trump to step up action against Saudi Arabia for its role in his death. A CIA report concluded in November 2018 that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered Khashoggi's killing. The prince denies doing so.

The big picture: Connolly, a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, has introduced the Protection of Saudi Dissidents Act to hold the country accountable for Khashoggi's murder. It would prohibit arms sales to Saudi security services for 120 days and every 120 days thereafter until the country meets certain human rights conditions.

  • The legislation would require a report on whether Saudi authorities engaged in intimidation or harassment of Khashoggi or any individual in the U.S. and for the intelligence community to report on whether it fulfilled its duty to warn the journalist of an impending threat against him. 
  • A State Department official noted the Trump administration has taken several actions in response to Khashoggi's murder, including last April, when 16 Saudi nationals were banned from entering the U.S.
  • In November 2018, the Treasury Department, in consultation with the Departments of State and Justice, imposed sanctions on 17 people and in October 2018, the visa restrictions were announced for 21 people connected to the killing.

What they're saying: "Hatice's courage to sit in the House Chamber Tuesday night should serve as a clarion call to the President that no matter how high it goes, Saudi Arabia must be held accountable for the murder of this loving father and fiancé, respected journalist, U.S. resident, my constituent, and reformer," Connolly said. "Congress has acted. Now too must the President."

  • A State Department official said in a statement to Axios that its officials were continuing to track the judicial process in Riyadh regarding the murder of Khashoggi, which the official called a "heinous, unacceptable crime."
  • "It is crucial that the Saudi government hold accountable those responsible for the murder," the official said. "We have spoken out publicly about many of our concerns, and continue to do so in our private diplomatic engagement as well."

Go deeper: UN report says Khashoggi killing was "deliberate, premeditated execution"

Editor's note: This article has been updated with comment from the State Department.

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