Democratic hopefuls Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have each announced their support for a bill that would allow victims of the Sept. 11 terror attacks to sue the government of Saudi Arabia – and, if passed, could prompt the desert kingdom to deal a massive blow to the U.S. economy.
Both candidates spoke about the controversial legislation on Monday, the eve of the New York primary, saying the Senate should pass the bill no matter the consequences.
“Wherever the trail may lead, it should be followed,” Clinton said on WABC radio. “We need justice.”
It’s important “to try to find out what actually did happen,” the former secretary of state added. “If there are people or institutions or governments who should be held accountable, that should be part of the bringing to justice anyone or any state that had any role in the horrors of 9/11. We’ve got to continue to seek the justice that the people who are suing deserve to have.”
Sanders also voiced his support for the bill on CBS This Morning.
“It is about suing any government, not just Saudi Arabia, that may have been involved in terrorism,” he said, adding that “getting the truth out about the role Saudi Arabia may be playing is a good and right thing.”
What the 9/11 Bill Could Mean for the U.S.
The Obama administration, meanwhile, opposes the bill, and has lobbied Congress to block the legislation from passing, fearing it would put Americans at legal risk overseas and incite economic retaliation from Saudi Arabia, reports The New York Times.
Saudi Arabia has threatened to sell off hundreds of billions of dollars in U.S. assets if the bill passes, and also warned the Obama administration and members of Congress of a diplomatic fallout.
The Times reports:
“Adel al-Jubeir, the Saudi foreign minister, delivered the kingdom’s message personally last month during a trip to Washington, telling lawmakers that Saudi Arabia would be forced to sell up to $750 billion in treasury securities and other assets in the United States before they could be in danger of being frozen by American courts.
Several outside economists are skeptical that the Saudis will follow through, saying that such a sell-off would be difficult to execute and would end up crippling the kingdom’s economy. But the threat is another sign of the escalating tensions between Saudi Arabia and the United States.”
Obama will arrive in the Saudi Arabian capital of Riyadh on Wednesday to meet with King Salman and other Saudi officials. White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said he did not know whether the leaders would discuss the 9/11 legislation, according to NBC News.
Saudi Arabia has long denied any involvement in the terror attacks on Sept. 11, and the 9/11 Commission found “no evidence that the Saudi government as an institution or senior Saudi officials individually funded the organization.” But critics still suspect that less senior officials or parts of the Saudi government could have played a role in aiding the hijackers responsible for the attacks.
“Suspicions have lingered, partly because of the conclusions of a 2002 congressional inquiry into the attacks that cited some evidence that Saudi officials living in the United States at the time had a hand in the plot,” the Times writes.
Those conclusions are detailed in 28 classified pages within the 838-page congressional report. There is a renewed push to make the pages public, from 9/11 families and politicians including Bob Graham, a former senator and former chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, and now Sanders.
On Monday the Vermont senator called on Obama to “declassify the 28-page section of the 9/11 Commission Report on the potential sources of foreign support received by the hijackers.”
“If no such connection exists, then our country deserves the information necessary to put that speculation behind us,” he added.