Mnuchin 'wrong person' to visit Saudi Arabia amid journalist’s disappearance, says Middle East expert

Middle East expert Simon Henderson said on Thursday that Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinFinancial trade tax gains traction with 2020 Democrats Hillicon Valley: Agencies play catch-up over TikTok security concerns | Senate Dems seek sanctions on Russia over new election meddling | Pentagon unveils AI principles Senate Democrats urge Trump administration to impose sanctions on Russia for election interference MORE is the “wrong person” to go to Saudi Arabia amid the disappearance and possible death of U.S.-based Saudi journalist, Jamal Khashoggi.

Mnuchin is scheduled to travel to Saudi Arabia for the Riyadh economic conference next month, but Henderson thinks Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoOvernight Defense: More closures possible at US bases in Europe as coronavirus spreads | Pompeo says Afghan 'reduction in violence is working' | Man accused of trying to blow up vehicle at Pentagon Pompeo: Afghanistan 'reduction of violence is working' Pompeo accuses China and Iran of hiding coronavirus outbreak MORE or national security adviser John Bolton would be better suited to make the trip, so they can have a “very hard talk” with the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is sometimes called MBS.

“At a time like this, he’s the wrong person to go … because it’s an economic conference he’s going to,” Henderson, an opinion contributor to The Hill, told Hill.TV co-hosts Krystal Ball and Buck Sexton on “Rising.”

“If anyone is going to go, it should be [Mike] Pompeo or [John] Bolton to have a very hard talk to MBS,” he added.

Khashoggi, a regular contributor to The Washington Post and frequent critic of the Saudi government, has not been seen since Oct. 2 when he visited the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to obtain paperwork for his upcoming marriage to his fiancee.

The international incident has put a strain on U.S.-Saudi ties.

President TrumpDonald John TrumpWinners and losers from the South Carolina debate Five takeaways from the Democratic debate Democrats duke it out in most negative debate so far MORE put pressure on Saudi Arabia on Wednesday to provide more details on the missing journalist, telling reporters that the White House is going to take a look into the “very serious situation.”

Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle have also raised concerns about Khashoggi.

Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamDemocrats duke it out in most negative debate so far Republicans give Barr vote of confidence Overnight Health Care — Presented by American Health Care Association — Lawmakers raise alarms over Trump coronavirus response | Top official warns virus appears inevitable in US | Democrats block two Senate abortion bills MORE (R-S.C.) promised there would be “hell to pay” if the Saudi government was indeed found responsible for his disappearance.

But the Treasury Department told The New York Times that Mnuchin is still planning to attend the Riyadh conference — popularly known as “Davos in the Desert" — unless any further details emerge. 

The summit is set to be held from October 23 through 25. It's expected to draw business leaders and government officials from around the world. 

— Tess Bonn