McConnell opens door to sanctions over missing journalist
© Stefani Reynolds
Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellLessons from the 1999 U.S. military intervention in Kosovo Five things to watch as AIPAC conference kicks off Romney helps GOP look for new path on climate change MORE (R-Ky.) opened the door on Tuesday to Senate action over the disappearance of a U.S.-based journalist who has criticized the government of Saudi Arabia, but stressed that lawmakers need to find out what happened first. 
 
"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. 
 
ADVERTISEMENT
“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 TrumpHow to stand out in the crowd: Kirsten Gillibrand needs to find her niche Countdown clock is on for Mueller conclusions Omar: White supremacist attacks are rising because Trump publicly says 'Islam hates us' 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."