WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Ranking Member of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Near East, South Asia, Central Asia, and Counterterrorism, on Wednesday questioned Mr. Keith Krach, nominee to become Under Secretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment, and Mr. Robert Desto, nominee to become Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, at a Foreign Relations Committee hearing. Murphy pressed Krach about the need for the United States to authorize funding to catalyze U.S. public and private sector investments for European energy projects to help diversify Europe’s energy supply and decrease Russia’s hold on the region. Murphy and U.S. Senator Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) introduced the European Energy Security and Diversification Act, legislation that would do just that. Their bill passed the U.S. House of Representatives yesterday.

Excerpts of Murphy’s remarks with Mr. Krach are below:

“A bunch of us on both sides of the aisle think it’s really important to set up a financing vehicle that we could partner with diplomatic efforts in order to help countries especially those on the Russia periphery become energy independent of Russia. A way, at no cost to the American taxpayer, to find some ways to try to push back on one of the prime means of Russian leverage, which is their energy that continues to flow largely unimpeded into countries that then become reliant not only on Russia’s energy source but become very intertwined with their foreign policy objectives and priorities as well.” 

“And I assume you believe that the United States can do more to try to promote energy independence in and around Russia’s periphery?”

Murphy also pressed Destro on President Trump’s embrace of brutal dictators around the world and unwillingness to hold the government of Saudi Arabia accountable for human rights atrocities in Yemen and the death of Washington Post journalist and U.S. resident Jamal Khashoggi. Earlier this month, the U.S. Senate successfully passed a War Powers Act resolution authored by Murphy, and U.S. Senators Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Mike Lee (R-Utah) to end U.S. involvement in the Saudi-led war in Yemen.

Excerpts of Murphy’s remarks with Mr. Destro are below: 

“…This administration’s constant embrace of brutal oppressive regimes all around the world has set back the international human rights cause by decades, in my opinion, but this position, when I think done right, is one that makes the argument that despite all of the competing priorities we have in bilateral relationships, when our president and our secretary of State is sitting across from another world leader, that they should raise and must raise issues of human rights, no matter the competing equities, there are always competing equities”

Murphy went on to ask Destro about his plans, if confirmed, in the capacity of Under Secretary of State for Human Rights, to hold the Saudi government and other brutal dictators around the world accountable:

“Thus far there have been absolutely no consequences to the government of Saudi Arabia from this administration, and I imagine if there was someone strongly advocating for human rights and democracy promotion as a cornerstone of our foreign policy in the State Department we might have had a different outcome in this administration’s policy. Give us your recommendations that you will make or how you view the need to raise these issues with a Saudi regime that seems to be targeting U.S. residents for repression.”

“I think everyone, with the exception of the president, who has taken a look at the evidence available thus has come to the conclusion that we have not sanctioned and targeted the people who were responsible for this killing thus the need to have somebody in your position who is speaking truth to power on who is actually responsible for these crimes and who actually needs to be held accountable but thank you very much for your participation today.”