Rep. Chris Stewart 120418
Lawmaker defends Trump's Khashoggi response
01:31 - Source: CNN
Washington CNN  — 

Rep. Chris Stewart on Tuesday defended President Donald Trump’s response to the death of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul in October, saying that “journalists disappear all over the country.”

“We have to have a relationship with some players we don’t agree with,” the Utah Republican told CNN’s Brianna Keilar on “CNN Right Now.” “Journalists disappear all over the country.”

“This is a very, very difficult challenge because we have to, on one hand, hold them accountable – including the crown prince for whatever action he may have been involved with,” Stewart added. “And at the same time what is protecting US interests? What is going to counter Shia extremists? What is going to help bring stability? What will help bring an end to the war in Yemen? You have to balance all those considerations as we move forward on this.”

After being subjected to massive international pressure, Saudi officials admitted the death of Khashoggi was a premeditated murder.

Trump responded to the incident in a statement last month subtitled “America First!” that called Khashoggi’s murder “terrible” but declared Saudi Arabia “a great ally.”

Stewart expanded on his comments Tuesday evening on Twitter, adding that the US “cannot brush aside the murder of any journalist.”

“As the leader of the free world we have to accomplish two goals; defend human rights while also attempting to maintain important relationships with key allies that we hope will help us bring stability to critical parts of the world,” he said. “We should always strive to do both.”

Earlier Tuesday, lawmakers were briefed by CIA Director Gina Haspel about the incident.

Sen. Bob Corker, a Tennessee Republican who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told CNN after the briefing with Haspel that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman “ordered, monitored, the killing” of Khashoggi.

When pressed on Trump’s dismissive response to the incident, Stewart added, “I think all of us agree there needs to be an appropriate response here, we need to hold individuals accountable and we need to completely understand the facts regarding that as well.”

CNN’s Manu Raju, Ted Barrett, Elizabeth Landers and Jim Acosta contributed to this report.