‘Saudi First’: Republicans blast Trump

Donald Trump is facing a growing backlash from senior Republicans over his open show of support for Saudi Arabia, and his volatile behaviour.

The US President yesterday released a statement entitled "America First!", calling Saudi Arabia "a great ally" and explaining that they were spending hundreds of billions buying arms from the States.

"I'm pretty sure this statement is Saudi Arabia First, not America First," said Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, adding: "I will continue to press for legislation to stop the Saudi arms sales and the war in Yemen."

Chief Justice John Roberts also pushed back on Mr Trump for his description of a judge who ruled against his migrant asylum policy as an "Obama judge."



It is the first time the Republican-appointed leader of the federal judiciary has criticised the US President, who has attacked federal judges who ruled against him before.

In the face of mounting evidence Saudi Arabia's royals knew of the plot to murder Jamal Khashoggi, members of Mr Trump's party appear unable to remain silent.

Tennessee senator Bob Corker blasted the President, writing: "I never thought I'd see the day a White House would moonlight as a public relations firm for the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia."

Mr Trump's statement placed the blame for the humanitarian crisis with Iran rather than Saudi Arabia.

Former presidential nominee and Utah senator-elect Mitt Romney said the statement written by the President and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was "inconsistent with an enduring foreign policy, with our national interest, with basic human rights, and with American greatness."

Even before the statement, he had said: "America can't excuse & minimize the brutal & gruesome murder of Jamal Khashoggi, a US resident & columnist. Our country is defined by human values, by principle above convenience, & by commitment to morality. We must subject the perpetrators of this outrage to withering sanction."


The statement emerged just as it was reported that the CIA had concluded the assassination of the Washington Post columnist at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul last month was ordered by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Mr Trump said the US would remain a "steadfast partner" of Saudi Arabia while admitting the Crown Prince "could very well" have known in advance about the plan.

"Maybe he did and maybe he didn't," wrote Mr Trump. "We may never know all of the facts surrounding the murder of Mr Jamal Khashoggi. In any case, our relationship is with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia."

Republican Senator Lindsay Graham also issued a warning to the President on Twitter. "One thing I learned during the Obama years is that when you look the other way regarding problems in the Middle East, it seldom works out," he wrote.

Another former White House aide this week announced he was releasing a tell-all memoir about the "Team of Vipers" in the chaotic West Wing. Meanwhile, a Trump-backed criminal justice reform bill is hitting a major roadblock in the Senate, despite the GOP majority. Conservatives believe the bill will make the party appear soft on crime, with one senator warning it would mean the early release of "dangerous, repeat felons".

Another fired back that the warning was "fake news", and demanded to see the bill on the senate floor, ushering in a public battle that will only look like evidence of disunity.

The President is also battling embarrassment over daughter and adviser Ivanka using her personal account for government emails, which saw him accused of hypocrisy after his vicious attacks on Hillary Clinton over her use of a private email server.

- With wires

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