White House says Trump and Pompeo failed on Khashoggi accountability

The White House responded to former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s criticism of slain journalist Jamal Khashoggi by touting President Joe Biden’s efforts to hold Saudi Arabia accountable for the brutal 2018 murder.

Biden’s press secretary said the president took Khashoggi’s killing seriously from his earliest days in office, actions he previewed on the 2020 campaign when he promised to make the kingdom “a pariah” for its actions.

“That included releasing Intelligence Committee report on the murder, which was not done in the last administration, sanctioning a number of Saudi officials and entities and instituting the so-called Khashoggi ban,” Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters.

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Jean-Pierre declined to comment on Pompeo’s claim that Khashoggi was an “activist,” criticism that the potential 2024 presidential candidate extends to the media in his new memoir.

“He didn’t deserve to die, but we need to be clear about who he was — and too many in the media were not,” Pompeo wrote in Never Give an Inch: Fighting for the America I Love. The Washington Examiner obtained a copy of the book in advance of its Jan. 24 release.

He called the journalist “a Saudi Arabian Bob Woodward who was martyred for bravely criticizing the Saudi royal family through his opinion articles in the Washington Post.”

Pompeo on Tuesday responded to criticism from the Washington Post by doubling down on his comments.

“Americans are safer because we didn’t label Saudi Arabia a pariah state,” Pompeo wrote in a tweet. “I never let the media bully me. Just b/c someone is a part-time stringer for WaPo doesn’t make their life more important than our military serving in dangerous places protecting us all. I never forgot that.”

The publisher of the Washington Post, Fred Ryan, condemned Pompeo for “outrageously misrepresenting” and “spreading vile falsehoods” about Khashoggi.

In 2018, as secretary of state, Pompeo said the murder “violates the norms of international law” but said that “strategic” ties between the U.S. and Saudi could not be discounted.

“We intend to make sure that those relationships remain intact,” he said.

Biden’s attempts to repair the relationship with Saudi Arabia after sharply criticizing the Kingdom on the 2020 campaign trail has not always been smooth.

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The president last year drew criticism for shielding Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman from prosecution in a U.S. court and for greeting the de facto leader with a fist-bump during a visit to Jeddah.

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