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 MnuchinOvernight Defense: Trump hits Iranian central bank with sanctions | Trump meeting with Ukrainian leader at UN | Trump touts relationship with North Korea's Kim as 'best thing' for US Trump says he's sanctioning Iran's national bank Lawmakers run into major speed bumps on spending bills 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 PompeoClarence Thomas, Joe Manchin, Rudy Giuliani among guests at second state visit under Trump Senate Judiciary Committee requests consultation with admin on refugee admissions State Department's top arms control official leaving 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 TrumpJulián Castro: It's time for House Democrats to 'do something' about Trump Warren: Congress is 'complicit' with Trump 'by failing to act' Sanders to join teachers, auto workers striking in Midwest 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 GrahamSenate Judiciary Committee requests consultation with admin on refugee admissions Trump reignites court fight with Ninth Circuit pick Trump judicial picks face rare GOP opposition 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