White House Defends Granting Immunity To Saudi Crown Prince Despite Biden Vow To Make ‘Pariah’ Of Kingdom

(Photo by Melina Mara-Pool/Getty Images)

During Friday’s press briefing, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre defended President Biden’s decision to grant immunity to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman despite Biden promising during his 2020 presidential campaign to make the kingdom “pay the price” for human rights abuses and “make them in fact the pariah that they are.”

“On the brief the State Department filed last night in the Jamal Khashoggi litigation, does the President have any concerns that the administration may be sending the wrong message about his commitment to holding the Saudis accountable on human rights?  And can you say whether he signed off on that brief?” a reporter asked.

“So, just — just let me just say at the top, just so that there’s clarity — and I know that you’ve heard from the State Department on this as well, and other colleagues,” Jean-Pierre responded. “At the request of a federal district court for U.S. government views on whether Mohammed bin Salman enjoys head of state immunity, the Department of Justice, at the request of the Department of State, informed the court that Prime Minister bin Salman is immune from suit in the U.S. — in U.S. courts while he holds the office of prime minister.”

“It’s nothing to do with the merits of this case; I want to be very clear on this.  But this is something that State Department and the Department of Justice has more details on, so I would certainly refer you — refer you to them,” she added.

Biden’s decision to grant immunity to Salman despite his campaign promise comes after he visited Saudi Arabia in July as part of a diplomatic effort to discuss energy production and other matters. During the visit, Biden greeted Salman with a fist bump, drawing backlash from those who pointed out his human rights abuses. For example, the Saudi ruler notoriously approved the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018 and defended the genocide of Uyghur Muslims in China in 2019, saying that “China has the right to carry out anti-terrorism and de-extremization work for its national security.”