"The administration's refusal to deal with this issue... underscores the need to get to the bottom of what is motivating [Trump's] foreign policy."
The United States Trump administration signaled Friday it was unlikely to meet a deadline to report to Congress on whether it intends to impose sanctions on those responsible for the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, prompting an angry backlash on Capitol Hill.
Republican and Democratic lawmakers triggered a provision of the Global Magnitsky human rights act in October, giving the administration 120 days until Feb. 8 to report on who was responsible for the death of Jamal Khashoggi and whether the United States would impose sanctions on that person or persons.
Khashoggi, a U.S. resident who wrote for The Washington Post, was killed at a Saudi consulate in Turkey in early October, sparking global outrage. In Saudi Arabia, 11 suspects have been indicted in the murder, and officials have rejected accusations that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the killing.
Congressional aides said they had not received a report from the White House by early evening Friday. Some said they still hoped to receive it by early next week, but the administration said President Donald Trump did not feel the need to send one.
"The President maintains his discretion to decline to act on congressional committee requests when appropriate," a senior administration official said in an email. "The U.S. Government will continue to consult with Congress and work to hold accountable those responsible for Jamal Khashoggi's killing."
Some lawmakers responded angrily and said they intended to punish whoever was responsible.
"The administration's refusal to deal with this issue and keep Congress informed underscores the need to get to the bottom of what is motivating the Trump foreign policy," Eliot Engel, the Democratic chairman of the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, said in a statement.
The news comes at a time when the United States is seeking regime change in Venezuela in an effort to oust democratically elected President Nicolas Maduro, while also imposing harsh economic sanctions against the country's national oil company, actions that experts say would directly impact the livelihood of Venezuelan citizens.
Progressive Congresspeople have slammed the Trump administration in recent days over turning a blind eye to the Saudi kingdom's documented violations of human rights domestically and most recently in Yemen while taking an aggressive actions against Venezuela using similar narratives.
Freshman Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, a Somali-American refugee and one of the first Muslim women to be elected to office last year, called out the U.S.’s hypocrisy in a tweet, saying, “why don't we hold Saudi Arabia to the same human rights standards as other countries?”
These are the costs of the Saudi-led War in Yemen— Rep. Ilhan Omar (@Ilhan) February 6, 2019
-17,000+ people killed
-3 million internally displaced
-22 million in need of aid
-The worst cholera outbreak in history
So why don't we hold Saudi Arabia to the same human rights standards as other countries? pic.twitter.com/pBCs1xpW2C
Congressman Ro Khanna asked why the U.S. doesn't sanction Saudi Arabia as it does for nations like Venezuela. "Sanctions will not bring democracy to Venezuela. They will just make Hyperinflaction worse and leave people starving," Khanna said in a tweet late Januray just days after the U.S. imposed its latest and harshest round of sanctions on Venezuela.
"Why don't we sanction Saudis who contiune blocking the port of Hodeidah and prevent food supplies from getting to Yemenis?" he questioned referring to the military blockade imposed by Saudi Arabia against several Yemeni ports as part of the kingdom's U.S.-backed aggression in Yemen since 2015.
The New York Times reported Thursday that the Saudi crown prince had said a year before Khashoggi's death that he would use "a bullet" on Khashoggi if he did not return home and end his criticism of the government.
Saudi Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel al-Jubeir told reporters Friday the prince did not order Khashoggi's killing but declined to comment on the Times story.
Al-Jubeir said he wanted Congress to let the Saudi legal process conclude before taking action on sanctions. "We are doing what we need to do in terms of acknowledging the mistake, investigating, charging and holding people accountable," he said.