Intel: Jamal Khashoggi’s fiancee to attend Trump’s State of the Union address

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Jamal Khashoggi’s fiancee will be watching President Donald Trump as he discusses his record in the Middle East at his annual State of the Union address on Tuesday. Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., has invited the murdered Washington Post journalist’s fiancee, Hatice Cengiz, as his guest to Trump’s address.

“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 fiancee, respected journalist, US resident, my constituent and reformer,” Connolly said in a statement. “Congress has acted. Now too must the president.”

Why it matters:  Trump enjoys a warm relationship with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman despite the fact that the United Nations has found “credible evidence” that the kingdom’s heir was involved in Khashoggi’s 2018 murder. The president has also leaned heavily on the US-Saudi security partnership as tensions escalate with Iran, which he is expected to address in his Tuesday speech. 

The House passed a veto-proof bill 405-7 last year to sanction every Saudi official complicit in Khashoggi’s murder, but the White House successfully convinced Congress to drop the legislation in order to pass a compromise defense bill that Trump signed into law in December. Nonetheless, the compromise bill still required the US intelligence community to disclose the names of every Saudi official complicit in Khashoggi’s assassination — a report the Trump administration failed to deliver by last month’s deadline.

What’s next:  While Saudi Arabia has emerged largely unscathed after more than a year of lawmakers’ bipartisan threats to retaliate for the Khashoggi murder, some Democrats are still trying to keep the unwelcome spotlight on Riyadh.

Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., has given the director of national intelligence to the end of Trump’s impeachment trial — which is expected to end in the president’s acquittal this week — to submit the legally mandated report on the Khashoggi murder. If the Trump administration fails to do so, he has threatened to turn to the Senate Intelligence Committee to force the director of national intelligence to declassify the report. 

Know more:  Congressional Correspondent Bryant Harris will keep you up to date on the latest tensions between Saudi Arabia and Capitol Hill. Read his roundup of Democratic efforts to keep the heat on the crown prince and his inside story outlining how the White House convinced lawmakers not to sanction Saudi Arabia over Khashoggi’s murder.

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Found in: Trump, Khashoggi

Bryant Harris is Al-Monitor's congressional correspondent. He was previously the White House assistant correspondent for Yomiuri Shimbun, Japan's largest newspaper. He has also written for Foreign Policy, Al Jazeera English and IPS News. Prior to his stint in DC, he spent two years as a US Peace Corps volunteer in Morocco. On Twitter: @brykharris_ALM, Email: bharris@al-monitor.com.

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