The US senate has delivered a significant rebuke to the Trump administration by defying the advice of its top officials and advancing a measure that would cut American military support for the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen.
The Republican-majority chamber voted 63-37 to allow the measure , which invokes the War Powers Resolution, stopping all involvement of US armed forces in the Yemen war, to proceed to the floor of the senate for a vote, expected next week.
The bipartisan measure was introduced by the independent senator and former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, Republican senator Mike Lee and Democrat Chris Murphy. It may yet be significantly amended, it would not stop arms sales to Saudi Arabia or the United Arab Emirates, and would face an uphill challenge to be passed by the House of Representatives.
But the moment represented a highly symbolic act of defiance, coming a few hours after the administration had wheeled out two of its biggest guns, the secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, and defence secretary, James Mattis, to brief the entire senate on the essential importance to US national security of US support for the Saudi-led coalition.
It also marked an assertion of Congress's constitutional prerogative
to decide whether the country goes to war - and an expression of alarm over the actions of the Saudi crown prince, Mohamed bin Salman (MbS).
Speaking to reporters after he addressed the senate, Pompeo repeated administration claims that there was no direct evidence connecting Prince Mohamed to Khashoggi's murder.
The murder of Khashoggi, a US resident, has significantly heightened the growing unease in Congress over the mounting civilian toll in Yemen, where more than 50,000 people are estimated to have died, many as a direct result of the Saudi coalition's bombing campaign.
In a later development, President Donald Trump's former personal lawyer Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to lying to Congress over the ongoing Russia investigation in connection with a Moscow real-estate deal and Russian contacts pursued during the 2016 election.
As Democrats decried the plea as evidence that Trump's associates were willing to lie about his business dealings, Trump sought to deflect mounting political pressure in an incoming House of Representatives under Democrat control by accusing Cohen of lying to get a reduced sentence.
The 52-year-old Cohen, who once famously said he would take a bullet for the Republican billionaire, admitted one count of making false statements relating to an already known prospective real-estate deal in court.
The Trump Tower deal -- which never got off the ground -- has been a focus of an investigation into whether the Trump campaign conspired with Russian operatives during the 2016 campaign, The New York Times reported.
Cohen admitted to making "false, fictitious and fraudulent" written testimony to Congress in August 2017 in connection with the project.
He lied to suggest that the project was shelved in January 2016 -- before the first caucus and primary voting began in the presidential election -- to downplay links between the deal and unnamed associates and in the hope of limiting the Russia investigation, according to court documents.
Contrary to his original testimony, the project was discussed multiple times within the company -- beyond January 2016 -- and with efforts to obtain Russian governmental approval being discussed as late as June of that year.
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