Cotton sides with Biden on granting immunity to the Saudi crown prince

Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., sided with the Biden administration’s argument that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was protected by sovereign immunity from lawsuits filed against him in the death of US-based journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

“What the administration decided this week in granting sovereign immunity to Mohammed bin Salman is in keeping with the practice and custom of lawsuits involving foreign heads of state,” Cotton said during an appearance on Fox News Sunday.

Cotton’s comments come after the State Department on Thursday said the administration’s determination that the Saudi leader had sovereign immunity from US courts in Khashoggi’s killing is a “purely a legal determination” with long-standing legal precedent.

The Arkansas senator agreed, saying it “would have been a major break from those customs to not grant that kind of immunity.”

WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY EXPLAINS DECISION TO REQUEST IMMUNITY FOR CROWN PRINCE IN KILLING OF KHASHOGGI

Sen.  Tom Cotton and President Biden

Sen. Tom Cotton and President Biden
(Getty Images)

“What I would say is Saudi Arabia is far from the world’s worst abuser of human rights,” Cotton said. “You look at what’s been happening in Iran for the last three months, for instance, and the way they’ve massacred protesters in the streets or what China does to harvest organs or to commit genocide against religious and ethnic minorities.”

Cotton pointed out that Saudi Arabia has been one of the US’s most critical security partners even though they don’t always share American values, arguing the US wouldn’t have many partners if countries were expected to 100% align with America’s democratic system.

“What matters most about governments around the world is less whether they’re democratic or not democratic and more whether they’re pro-American or anti-American,” Cotton said. “The simple fact is Saudi Arabia has been an American partner going back 80 years.”

Cotton noted that his stance does not “mean that we overlook or excuse countries that are pro-American,” arguing that they can be nurtured into democratic countries over time.

Sen.  Tom Cotton speaks with Fox News Digital in Carrollton, Georgia, after teaming up with GOP Senate nominee Herschel Walker at a campaign event, on Oct.  11, 2022.

Sen. Tom Cotton speaks with Fox News Digital in Carrollton, Georgia, after teaming up with GOP Senate nominee Herschel Walker at a campaign event, on Oct. 11, 2022.
(Fox News)

BIDEN ADMINISTRATION REQUESTS IMMUNITY FOR SAUDI CROWN PRINCE IN KHASHOGGI KILLING: ‘BEYOND IRONIC’

The Biden administration’s position on the issue has proven controversial, with Washington Post CEO Fred Bryan saying the decision fails “to uphold America’s most cherished values.”

“He’s granting license to kill to one of the world’s most egregious human rights abusers,” Bryan said of President Biden.

Biden has seemingly struggled to balance the US relationship with Saudi Arabia in recent months, most notably after the country went against the president’s wishes to ramp up the supply of oil in response to surging prices.

The 2018 killing of Khashoggi has become another focal point in the often tense relationship between Biden and Saudi Arabia, with Biden previously vowing on the campaign trail to make a “pariah” out of Saudi rulers over the issue.

President Biden being welcomed by Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman at Alsalam Royal Palace in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia on July 15.

President Biden being welcomed by Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman at Alsalam Royal Palace in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia on July 15.
(Royal Court of Saudi Arabia/Handout/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

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“I think it was a flat-out murder,” Biden said during a 2019 CNN town hall. “And I think we should have nailed it like that. I publicly said at the time we should treat it that way and there should be consequences relating to how we deal with those – that power.”

But Cotton believes Biden has at least moved in the right direction when it comes to handling the case.

“They didn’t have to weigh in, but again, it would have been a major breach with customary practice,” Cotton said.