Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm shot down on Sunday President Joe Biden claim that he would not meet with Saudi Crown’ Prince Mohammad bin despite the ordered killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, the administration’s reneging on the Saudis’ “pariah” status.
Granholm appeared on CNN’s State of the Union, where she defended the need to meet with the Crown Prince during the Gulf Cooperation Council summit. Biden had said Friday he was “not going to meet with MBS, I’m going to an international meeting. MBS is going to be part of it,” though the Saudis confirmed the two would meet separately.
“I think he will meet with the Saudi Crown Prince,” Granholm told host Dana Bash. “He has asked for all suppliers around the globe to increase production that includes [the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries], that includes our domestic oil and gas producers. He is asking for an increase like other leaders around the globe are interested they will have a one on one meeting.”
Bash pressed the energy secretary on the optics of the meeting, asking why it was “appropriate for a US President to meet with a dictator who murdered and chopped up a journalist” in a violation of human rights. As a candidate, Biden had committed to ostracizing Saudi Arabia for Khashoggi’s murder, saying he would have them “pay the price, and make them in the fact the pariah that they are.”
Granholm sputtered, arguing the meeting was necessary to stave off a further increase in gas prices.
“The president is very concerned about that, and I’m sure will raise that issue,” Granholm said. “But he’s also very concerned about what people are experiencing at the pump and Saudi Arabia is the head of OPEC, and we need to have increased production so that everyday citizens in America will not be feeling this pain that they’re feeling right now.”
Granholm’s defense came after a back-and-forth over the administration’s role in curbing what Americans pay at the pump. Granholm repeatedly deferred to other factors, including the need to fund the recent infrastructure bill, as potential obstacles to lowering gas costs.
It led Bash to a pointed question: “When people are watching, they’re saying, ‘OK, this is the president’s energy secretary. What I want to know is, when will my gas prices come down?’”
After further speculation, including a potential European Union ban on Russian oil, Granholm acknowledged her uncertainty.
“I can just say what the experts are projecting,” she said. “We know this is going to be a tough summer because driving season just started and there will be continued upward pull on demand.”