Florida congressman challenges Saudis on Pensacola shootings

“We want no interference from the kingdom as it relates to Saudis that we have,” Gaetz said.

“And if there are Saudis that we do not have that may have been involved in any way in the planning, inspiration, financing or execution of this,” he added, “we expect Saudi intelligence to work with our government to find the people accountable and hold them responsible.”

Gaetz, a loyal defender of President Donald Trump, dismissed criticism that the president has not been tough enough with the kingdom. The Friday shooting strained an already complicated relationship between the two countries, especially with Trump’s hesitancy to punish Saudi Arabia for the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

“King Salman of Saudi Arabia just called to express his sincere condolences and give his sympathies to the families and friends of the warriors who were killed and wounded in the attack,” Trump tweeted Friday. “The King said that the Saudi people are greatly angered by the barbaric actions of the shooter, and that this person in no way shape or form represents the feelings of the Saudi people who love the American people.”

And on Saturday, Defense Secretary Mark Esper ordered a review of procedures for vetting foreign nationals and security on military installations.

“I’m grateful for the president for being so on top of this. We’ve been communicating regularly,” Gaetz said Sunday.

He applauded Esper’s review, adding that the U.S. should not accept new Saudi trainees or nationals until authorities are confident in the vetting process.

“As Secretary Esper is looking at the recordkeeping, the accounting for these Saudi nationals that are in our country, the continuous observance and monitoring of their activities to ensure that there’s not radicalization — while that’s going on, we should pause this program.”

Gaetz said the Pensacola shootings were a huge blow to his congressional district.

“There is a special kind of grief when the bravest most patriotic Americans are putting themselves in harm’s way to train people from other countries to be able to protect and defend their own country and then they kill us for it,” he said.

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