Sen. Angus King calls border troop deployment an "overreaction"

Sen. King on assessment of Khashoggi murder: “The CIA doesn’t do feelings”
Sen. King on assessment of Khashoggi murder: ... 06:18

Independent Maine Sen. Angus King questioned the justification for sending thousands of troops to the U.S.-Mexico border to anticipate the arrival of migrant caravans from Central America and called the deployment by President Trump an "overreaction."  

"If indeed there was an invasion — which there isn't — clearly we can defend ourselves. I mean, that's one of the reasons we have a military," King told CBS News' Margaret Brennan on "Face the Nation" Sunday. "But using troops in a border situation with asylum-seekers is, I think, not appropriate."

"All the indications are this was an overreaction," the senator added, referring to the pre-midterm elections decision by the White House to deploy more than 5,000 active-duty soldiers to the southwest border to help the Border Patrol and National Guard troops already stationed there.

The former two-term governor of Maine also pushed back on a series of statements by the president on Wednesday in which Mr. Trump said "a lot of criminals" were among the migrants traveling through Mexico for the U.S. The senator stressed that he has "never seen any evidence" of the presence of "bad criminals" in the migrant caravans.

King, who caucuses with the Democratic Party, said he wants the Senate Committee on Armed Services, of which he is a member, to clarify the "rules of engagement" the military units at the border have been issued. On Wednesday, the White House, through a memo signed by chief of staff John Kelly, authorized the troops stationed at the border to use force — including "lethal force" — when necessary to "ensure the protection of federal personnel."

"It seems to be inappropriate unless there is some serious provocation, which, so far, doesn't seem to be the case," King said.

The junior senator from Maine said the committee should also determine how much the operation, originally dubbed Faithful Patriot, has cost the government. "Estimates range from 75 million to a couple of hundred million dollars for something which by all accounts doesn't seem to be necessary," he noted.

During the interview, King also joined the chorus of bipartisan criticism against the White House's pledge to maintain its strong military and economic alliance with Saudi Arabia despite the CIA's conclusion that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the gruesome murder of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

King, who is also a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, rebuked the president for disputing the assessments of the U.S. intelligence community and for referring to the agencies' findings as "feelings."   

"The CIA doesn't do feelings," King said.

The senator said the economic sanctions that the Treasury Department issued against 17 Saudi officials — including Saoud al-Qahtani, a close aide to the crown prince — are concrete evidence that suggest that the Saudi royal was aware of the murder. The White House's statement, King argued, essentially conveyed that the U.S. government was willing "turn a blind eye" to Khashoggi's brutal killing because of its important geopolitical relationship with the Saudi kingdom.

"I think it gives a pass to dictators around the world," King said.

  • Camilo Montoya-Galvez
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    Camilo Montoya-Galvez is the immigration reporter at CBS News. Based in Washington, he covers immigration policy and politics.