White House press secretary Karen Jean-Pierre explained the Biden administration’s decision to grant immunity to Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman from trial over his alleged role in the 2018 murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
“So, look, again, it’s an exception. The determination is a legal one. That’s what I was suggesting earlier. The United States has consistently exempted heads of government, like prime ministers, from traditional institutional law. Accordingly,” said Jean-Pierre. “US practice on this issue is long-standing and consistent, including the immunity cases of several heads of state in the past four administrations.”
His comments came after the State Department determined on Thursday that Prince Mohammed, also known as MBS, should have immunity from prosecution over his alleged role in Khashoggi’s death.
The State Department called the decision “purely a legal determination,” citing long-standing precedent on the matter.
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In the filing, the State Department said it “does not weigh the merits of the present case and reiterates its unequivocal condemnation of the heinous murder of Jamal Khashoggi.”
When President Biden was running for office in 2019, he said he planned to “pariah” Saudi leaders over Khashoggi’s death. He made the comment during a 2019 Democratic primary debate.
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In a 2019 CNN town hall, Biden called the incident a “flat-out murder.”
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“And I think we should have nailed it that way,” Biden said. How do we deal with — that power,” Biden said.
Elizabeth Pritchett of Fox News and The Associated Press contributed to this report.