McConnell opens door to sanctions over missing journalist
© Stefani Reynolds
 
"I think it's good that the president sent the secretary of State to talk to the king. We need to find out what happened before deciding what kind of response is appropriate," McConnell told Bloomberg TV when asked about the state of the U.S.-Saudi relationship. 
 
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“I can’t imagine there won’t be [a response], but I think we need to find out what happened," McConnell added in response to a question about whether there would be "some type of response" if the allegations implicating Saudi Arabia in the disappearance of Washington Post contributor Jamal Khashoggi are true.
 
Khashoggi's disappearance has put a new strain on the U.S.-Saudi relationship, with President TrumpDonald John TrumpComey: Barr is 'sliming his own department' GOP Mueller critic says Flynn contacted him during special counsel probe: report Acting DHS secretary threatened to quit after clashing with Miller: report MORE facing bipartisan pressure from Congress to enact swift punishment on Riyadh if officials there can't provide evidence that Khashoggi is still alive.
 
But McConnell's rhetoric is notably softer than several members of his caucus who are floating a myriad of potential responses to Khashoggi's disappearance including new sanctions against Saudi Arabia, ending U.S. arms sales to Riyadh and urging the Trump administration not to send officials to an upcoming financial conference. 
 
McConnell, in a separate interview with Bloomberg, declined to say if the U.S. response should include pausing arms sales to Saudi Arabia, adding that he doesn't want to specify, yet, what the U.S. response should look like. 
 
Members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee also sent a letter last week to the Trump administration invoking the Magnitsky Act, giving the administration 120 days to respond to the panel about sanctioning officials responsible for human rights violations.
 
McConnell added on Tuesday that sanctions through the Magnitsky Act "may well be" the right response if Khashoggi was murdered, but reiterated that lawmakers need to "find out what happened." 
 
Turkish officials have said they believe Khashoggi was killed and dismembered inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on orders of the government in Riyadh. 
 
CNN reported Monday that Saudi Arabia was readying a report that would acknowledge Khashoggi's death was the result of an interrogation that went wrong. One source told CNN that the report would likely find that the interrogation was carried out "without clearance."