Paul to Trump: Saudis consider sanctions for Khashoggi killing a "sign of weakness"

Rand Paul on Khashoggi murder
Rand Paul on Khashoggi murder 07:34

Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky says the Trump administration's sanctions against 17 Saudi Arabian individuals for the death of Jamal Khashoggi will be viewed "as a sign of weakness" by the U.S., and reiterated his call to cut off arms sales to the country to punish the Saudi leadership. 

"The thing about sanctions is that I think sanctions are pretending to do something without really doing anything," Paul said on "Face the Nation" Sunday. "Most of these people are in prison other than the crown prince. But the crown prince runs the country and we deal with him. If we put sanctions on people who are in prison. Are we really doing anything to punish them? They're already in prison. 

"We need to punish who ordered this, who's in charge, and really the only thing they understand over there is strength," Paul added. "I think they will see sanctions as weakness on the part of the president and if the president wants to act strongly he should cut off the arms sale."

The CIA has concluded Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the killing of Khashoggi. A U.S. official told CBS News Friday that U.S. intelligence has "high confidence" in its assessment that the crown prince ordered the killing.

"I think the evidence is overwhelming that the crown prince was involved," Paul said. "And so no, I don't think we can sweep this under the rug." 

Paul, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said "the Saudis have been duplicitous since the very beginning. Do we need to do more? Yes, but at the very least we need to quit selling arms to people who are lying to us."

Paul's comments connecting Khashoggi's murder to the crown prince contrast with those from President Trump. In an interview with "Fox News Sunday," Mr. Trump said the Saudi heir had repeatedly denied being involved in the killing.

On domestic policy, Paul said he wants to press Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to bring up sentencing reform, a measure Mr. Trump supports. 

"If Sen. Mitch McConnell, from my home state, will allow a vote, it gets 65 to 70 votes in the Senate. It'll be one of the most popular things to ever pass," Paul said. "It's all up to one person. Senator McConnell has the ability to call any vote he wants to anytime. He has promised in the past that he would allow this vote if there was popularity for it. President Trump is behind it."