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Flake links Trump’s attacks on press to apparent murder of Saudi journalist

PHOENIX — U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona asserted Thursday that President Donald Trump’s attacks on the press have given authoritarian regimes cover for acts such as the recent suspected murder of a Saudi journalist.

Speaking on the Senate floor, the outgoing Republican said the world’s oppressors have been adopting Trump’s rhetoric by calling critical reporting “fake news” and saying journalists are “the enemy of the people.”

Flake cited Syrian President Bashar Assad, Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte and Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro as dictators who have parroted Trump’s attacks on the press.

“We cannot give convenient language to authoritarians, language that is used against their own people,” said Flake, who will be leaving office in January because he didn’t seek re-election.

Flake said the U.S. must change the way it deals with Saudi Arabia if allegations that the government was complicit in the death of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi are confirmed.

Trump says the United States is being “very tough” as it tries to find out what’s happened to the writer. He also expressed reservations over calls to withhold further U.S. arms sales to Saudi Arabia.

Khashoggi, a contributor to the Washington Post, disappeared last week after entering the Saudi consulate in Turkey.

Turkish officials said they feared Saudi Arabia killed and dismembered Khashoggi, who has been critical of his country’s government, but offered no evidence.

Saudi Arabia has denied the allegation as “baseless.”

“Put bluntly, we cannot do business as usual with the Saudi government if they directed or were complicit in the murder of Jamal Khashoggi,” Flake said.

“Mr. President, we in this body had best be very careful about who the enemies of the people are and who they are not.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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