WASHINGTON, DC — Republican Sen. Jeff Flake said he believes there are enough votes in the Senate to overwrite a potential presidential veto should Congress decide to withdraw the US’ role in Yemen as a rebuke to Saudi Arabia.
“I think there will be. If the administration doesn’t change their policy and if we continue to ignore what happened to (journalist Jamal) Khashoggi, then we will have the votes,” Flake said in an interview Friday with CNN’s Poppy Harlow on “Newsroom.”
Amid lingering frustrations surrounding the murder of Khashoggi and the Trump administrations handling of the crisis, the Senate is considering a bipartisan resolution to withdraw the US from providing military support to the Saudi Arabia coalition involved in the Yemen conflict.
Lawmakers voted 63-37 on Wednesday to advance the resolution opposed by the Trump administration.
But Flake told CNN that he believes the Trump administration will “probably” change its policy in Yemen.
“I think they are going to have to (change policy). They don’t want to face a Congress that will defund or take other steps that will be even more draconian in the administration’s view than change our policy in Yemen,” Flake told CNN Friday.
Flake also told CNN that the full Senate is requesting a briefing by the CIA, after CIA Director Gina Haspel was not at Wednesday’s Saudi and Yemen briefing by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense secretary James Mattis on Capitol Hill. The CIA made an assessment that Khashoggi’s death was ordered by Saudi Arabia’s de-facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, though Pompeo said there remains “no direct reporting” linking the crown prince to the murder.
“Yes, we want to get that briefing. We were very disappointed Gina Haspel was not there when Mike Pompeo and (Defense Secretary James) Mattis were there. She needed to be there. It’s a CIA’s assessment that I think is the most important here. They’re the ones with first access to the intelligence,” Flake said.
Flake, who is retiring from Congress, has also drawn speculation that he will mount a presidential campaign in 2020.
The Arizona senator reiterated to CNN that he’s not ruling out a 2020 bid, but that it’s a “long way from my mind right now.”
“I hope that a Republican runs in the primary against the President. I think that Republicans need to be reminded what it means to be conservative and what it means to be decent,” he told Harlow.