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 MnuchinTreasury targets two Chinese shipping firms under North Korea sanctions China says US officials to visit for trade talks The Hill's Morning Report - Trump's intraparty feuds divide Republicans 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 PompeoWhite House rejects Dem request for documents on Trump-Putin communications US calls for Venezuela to release opposition leader's chief of staff Trump: 'It is time' to recognize Israeli control of Golan Heights 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 TrumpCummings says Ivanka Trump not preserving all official communications Property is a fundamental right that is now being threatened 25 states could see severe flooding in coming weeks, scientists say 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 GrahamThe Hill's Morning Report - Trump's intraparty feuds divide Republicans Trump's attacks on McCain exacerbate tensions with Senate GOP Republicans defend McCain amid Trump attacks 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