Senator Bob Menendez on Congress’s Response to Saudi Arabia

The ranking Democrat on the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Bob Menendez, is teaming-up with his Republican colleagues to demand answers from the Saudis, and Trump. He weighs-in on whether congress will block arms sales to Saudi Arabia.

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CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR: But let us know get to what you are concerned about, 22 senators, yourself included, have signed a letter. You want the administration to really do the necessary and hold an ally accountable if it does prove to be the worst that we expect it to be. Can I just play you what President Trump has said about how he feels about that and then we’ll talk about it?



TRUMP: I don’t like stopping massive amounts of money that’s being poured into our country. I know they are talking about different kinds of sanctions. But they are spending $110 billion on military equipment and on things that create jobs, like jobs and others for this country. I don’t like the concept of stopping an investment of $110 billion into the United States because you know what they are going to do? They are going to take that money and spend it in Russia or China or someplace else. So. I think that there are other ways, if it turns out to be as bad as it might be, there are certainly other ways of handling this situation.


AMANPOUR: So, how do you react to that and what might be the other ways?

MENENDEZ: I have no idea what the president is referring to as the other ways. This is part of an alarming trend of the Trump administration where human rights, press freedoms in the world, the rights of citizens to speak out against their government and democracy are a low priority for the Trump administration.

In my 26 years of doing foreign policy between the House and Senate Foreign Relations Committee, I have never seen a lower moment in our history in terms of the priorities that we give to individual freedoms in the world, to human rights, to democracy. And so, I’m deeply concerned that the administration, once again, is potentially willing to overlook those violations. And not only sends a message to Saudi Arabia that almost gives them a carte blanche. Here is a country that we should be concerned about in terms of the actions they have already taken. They ended or temporarily cease their relationships with Canada over the question of human right discourse. They, you know, ultimately detained the prime minister of Lebanon and held him hostage and had him resign. They have arrested a series of Saudi women who are just speaking up for their individual rights. They are in the midst of a horrific campaign in Yemen. And the list goes on and on.

We should, be concerned at the end, about the day about the trajectory that Saudi Arabia is taking in all of these actions, many of which I believe violate the international order. And if we let Saudi Arabia get away with it simply because they are an ally or we have some strategic interests with it, then we send a global message

About This Episode EXPAND

Christiane Amanpour speaks with presidential historian Michael Beschloss and Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.). Michel Martin speaks with author R.J. Young.