Lawmakers on Sunday criticized President Joe Biden as he returned from his trip to the Middle East which saw him fist bump Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Photo by Bandar Aljaloud/EPA-EFE
July 17 (UPI) -- President Joe Biden faced criticism from U.S. lawmakers for meeting with Saudi leaders as he returned from a four-day trip to the Middle East.
Biden met with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and other ministers of the government at Al Salam Royal Palace despite Western intelligence indicating Mohammed was directly responsible for the killing of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Turkey in 2018.
During the visit he was photographed fist-bumping Mohammed, prompting several lawmakers to comment on the casual nature of the interaction.
Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., wrote on Twitter Friday that the gesture served as "a visual reminder of the continuing grip oil-rich autocrats have on U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East," as Biden's visit came amid record gas prices in the United States.
"One fist bump is worth a thousand words," he wrote.
Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., told ABC News' This Week that Saudi Arabia is not the "type of government that should be rewarded with a visit by the president of the United States" given its involvement in Khashoggi's murder.
"You got a family that is worth $100 billion, which crushes democracy, which treats women as third-class citizens, which murders and imprisons its opponents," Sanders said, when asked if he would ignore the Saudis as president. "And if this country believes in anything, we believe in human rights, we believe in democracy, and I just don't believe that we should be maintaining a warm relationship with a dictatorship like that."
Sanders said that the United States must instead "tell the oil companies to stop ripping off the American people and if they don't, we impose a windfall profits tax on them," to combat the high price of fuel.
Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, a Republican, also criticized Biden for "flying to the Middle East and fist bumping with murderers and despots asking for more supply," telling CNN's State of the Union he should instead focus on domestic solutions.
"What he could do is open up the Keystone pipeline," Ducey said. "What he could do is work with America's energy leaders and provide more supply of fossil fuels, of clean energy and solve this crisis," he said.
Biden, who returned to the White House on Saturday night, said that he brought up the issue of Khashoggi's killing during the meeting, "making it clear what I thought of it at the time, and what I think of it now."
"I made my view crystal clear. I said very straightforwardly, for an American president. To be silent on the issue of human rights is inconsistent ... with who we are and who I am. What happened to Khashoggi was outrageous."