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Senate twice defies Trump on Saudi Arabia

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The U.S. Senate delivered a rare double rebuke to President Donald Trump on Saudi Arabia on Thursday, voting to end U.S. military support for the war in Yemen and blame the Saudi crown prince for the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

The votes were largely symbolic because to become law the resolutions would have to pass the House of Representatives, whose Republican leaders have blocked any legislation intended to rebuke the Saudis.

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In a historic move, Senators voted 56-41 to end U.S. military support for the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen’s civil war. The conflict has killed tens of thousands of people and spawned what the United Nations calls the world’s most dire human crisis, with the country on the brink of famine.

It was the first time either chamber of Congress had backed a resolution to withdraw U.S. forces from a military engagement under the War Powers Act. That law, passed in 1973, limits the president’s ability to commit U.S. forces to potential hostilities without congressional approval.

Seven of Trump’s fellow Republicans joined Senate Democrats to back the measure.

Immediately after the Yemen vote, the Senate backed a resolution blaming Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for Khashoggi’s murder and insisting that Saudi Arabia hold accountable anyone responsible for his death.

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Khashoggi, a U.S. resident who was a columnist for the Washington Post, was killed inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October. The Senate vote, which was unanimous, puts pressure on House leaders to allow a vote on the Khashoggi resolution this month, before Congress adjourns for the year.

“Unanimously, the United States Senate has said that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is responsible for the murder of Jamal Khashoggi. That is a strong statement. I think it speaks to the values that we hold dear,” said Republican Senator Bob Corker, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee and sponsor of the resolution.

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Trump has said he wants Washington to stand by the Saudi government and the prince, despite a CIA assessment it was likely he ordered Khashoggi’s killing. He promised to veto the war powers resolution.

Opponents of the resolution are reluctant to take any action to disrupt the strategic U.S. relationship with Saudi Arabia, seen as an essential counterweight in the Middle East to Iran, arch-enemy of close U.S. ally Israel.

Administration officials also see Saudi support as a linchpin for an Israeli-Palestinian peace plan yet to be unveiled by the Trump administration. And they have argued that ending U.S. support could complicate Yemen peace talks.

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‘SHARED STRATEGIC INTERESTS’
Asked to comment on the Khashoggi resolution, a White House spokesperson noted sanctions imposed on 17 Saudis over the killing and said, “Our shared strategic interests with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia remain, and we continue to view as achievable the twin imperatives of protecting America and holding accountable those responsible for the killing.”

But backers of the resolutions, including some Republicans, promised to press ahead. On Wednesday, a bipartisan group of senators promised to push in the new Congress legislation for humanitarian sanctions and a ban on weapons sales to Saudi Arabia.

“What’s next is to do everything possible to demand that the House of Representatives do what the members of the House want done, an opportunity to vote on this,” Senator Bernie Sanders told Reuters.

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Sanders, an independent who caucuses with Democrats, said he would bring the resolution up again after the new Congress convenes in January, when Democrats will control the House of Representatives. The measure could pass the Senate again, given the bipartisan support it received on Thursday, even though Trump’s Republicans will have a larger majority in the upper chamber next year.

“I think we’re going to win in the Senate and I think we are going to do what the American people want, that is to end our participation in this horrific and destructive war,” Sanders said.

There was no immediate word from House leadership on whether they would allow a vote on either resolution.

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Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, who briefed House members on Thursday, urged senators during a briefing last month to keep supporting the Saudi-led coalition.

Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi said her members supported congressional action. “There certainly is an appetite in our caucus for that,” Pelosi, who is expected to be the next House Speaker, told reporters.

Yemen’s warring parties agreed on Thursday to cease fighting for the Houthi-held port city of Hodeidah and withdraw their troops, the first significant breakthrough for U.N.-led peace efforts in five years of conflict.

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Reporting by Patricia Zengerle, additional reporting by Richard Cowan, Ginger Gibson and Steve Holland; Editing by Alistair Bell and Rosalba O’Brien

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… then let us make a small request. Like you, we here at Raw Story believe in the power of progressive journalism — and we’re investing in investigative reporting as other publications give it the ax. Raw Story readers power David Cay Johnston’s DCReport, which we've expanded to keep watch in Washington. We’ve exposed billionaire tax evasion and uncovered White House efforts to poison our water. We’ve revealed financial scams that prey on veterans, and efforts to harm workers exploited by abusive bosses. We’ve launched a weekly podcast, “We’ve Got Issues,” focused on issues, not tweets. Unlike other news sites, we’ve decided to make our original content free. But we need your support to do what we do.

Raw Story is independent. You won’t find mainstream media bias here. We’re not part of a conglomerate, or a project of venture capital bros. From unflinching coverage of racism, to revealing efforts to erode our rights, Raw Story will continue to expose hypocrisy and harm. Unhinged from corporate overlords, we fight to ensure no one is forgotten.

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Mississippi sheriff busted for complaining Hispanic lawmaker is ‘worse than a black person’

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On Friday, the Atlanta Black Star reported that Jim Johnson, the sheriff of Lee County, Mississippi, made a racist comment about Hispanic GOP state Rep. Shane Aguirre while complaining about his opposition to the construction of a new county jail outside Tupelo.

Aguirre, Johnson told white Lee County Supervisor Phil Morgan in a 2017 text message first released Tuesday by the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal, was "worse than a black person."

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In July 2018, the most widely respected analysts were decidedly uncertain whether the Democrats could retake the House.  On July 6, Cook Political Report, for example, listed 180 seats as "solid" for Democrats, with 12 likely/lean and 3 "toss-up or worse." If the Democrats won all of those and the 22 GOP-held seats described as "toss-ups" — they'd still be one seat short of a majority, at 217.

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On Saturday's edition of "AM Joy," former Senate aide Jimmy Williams clashed with Log Cabin Republicans spokesman Charles Moran over his Washington Post op-ed hailing President Donald Trump for supposedly taking "bold actions that benefit the LGBTQ community."

"Since Trump became president, he's done, established, promulgated rules, or met with virulently homophobic leaders in the White House 123 times. Not 100 times, not 23 times, 123 times," said Williams. "In fact, yesterday, the Trump Department of Justice sent an amicus brief to the Supreme Court of the United States saying transgendered Americans don't have the right to not be discriminated against in the workplace. They did that yesterday! I am glad President Trump is trying to decriminalize gender hate in the United States. I cannot go and adopt a child in South Carolina, where I currently am as we speak, because the president of the United States granted a waiver to South Carolina back in January of this year saying that adoption agencies in the state can say no to gay people trying to adopt."

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