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Saudis 'obscuring' journalist disappearance, GOP senator tells Hill.TV

A GOP senator said on Hill.TV that Saudi Arabian officials are “obscuring” their role in the disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi instead of “clarifying this situation.”

"I just finished reviewing the intelligence and of course can't speak to specifics, but just based on the open-source information, it's clear the Saudis are not clarifying this situation," Sen. Todd YoungTodd Christopher YoungShelton's Fed nomination on knife's edge amid coronavirus-fueled absences Grassley quarantining after exposure to coronavirus Rick Scott to quarantine after contact with person who tested positive for COVID-19 MORE (R-Ind.) told Hill.TV in an interview Thursday. "Instead, if anything, they are obscuring it.”

Young was one of 22 senators who signed a letter Wednesday penned by Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chair and Ranking member Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerGOP lawmaker patience runs thin with Trump tactics Former GOP senator: Republicans cannot let Trump's 'reckless' post-election claims stand Cornyn: Relationships with Trump like 'women who get married and think they're going to change their spouse' MORE (R-Tenn.) and Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezDemocratic senators urge Facebook to take action on anti-Muslim bigotry Trump appointee sparks bipartisan furor for politicizing media agency Senate Democrats hold talkathon to protest Barrett's Supreme Court nomination MORE (D-N.J.) to trigger an investigation into Khashoggi’s disappearance under the Global Magnitsky Act. Under the act, Corker and Menendez can pressure the White House to weigh in on sanctions against Saudi leaders.

The Indiana Republican said the administration’s investigation would be followed by the "potential of sanctions" to be implemented on high-level Saudi or other officials involved in "this situation."

"…[W]e need to act and the Saudis need to know we are prepared to act with respect to Yemen, as well as the disappearance of this journalist unless more answers are forthcoming,” Young said.

Two other key senators, Sens. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamFeinstein to step down as top Democrat on Judiciary Committee Democrats face increasing pressure to back smaller COVID-19 stimulus Media and Hollywood should stop their marching-to-Georgia talk MORE (R-S.C.) and Pat Leahy (D-Vt.), who lead the Senate Appropriations subcommittee on state and foreign operations also signed on to the letter.

"I'm hoping that the administration will look at the people signing this bipartisan letter," Leahy told reporters on Thursday. "We have real concerns, and in some of the private conversations I've had with Republican and Democratic senators, it's huge concerns about Saudi Arabia.”

Leahy dismissed concerns that the U.S. could risk inflaming religious extremist groups if Washington responded too harshly following Khashoggi’s disappearance.

“Murder is murder and I don't care who may get upset with doing that,” he said.

In addition to potential sanctions against Saudi officials, Democratic and Republican senators point to ending weapons sales to Saudi Arabia for its role in the Yemeni civil war.

"We've got to treat this is a serious matter, let me suggest where we start, the notion that we are helping the Saudis in Yemen, the fact that United States taxpayers are subsidizing their bombers, going into deliver bombs that kill innocent people in Yemen should stop immediately,” said Dick DurbinDick DurbinDurbin seeks to become top-ranking Democrat on Judiciary panel Feinstein to step down as top Democrat on Judiciary Committee Democrats face increasing pressure to back smaller COVID-19 stimulus MORE (Ill.), the No. 2 ranking Senate Democrat.

But Senate Majority Whip John CornynJohn CornynCornyn says election outcome 'becoming increasingly clear': report Top GOP senator: Biden should be getting intel briefings GOP senator congratulates Biden, says Trump should accept results MORE (Texas) expressed a desire to wait to determine how to proceed until he hears from U.S. intelligence community leaders — which he expects soon, as a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

"It would be a monumental mistake if in fact there is any indication that the Saudi's orchestrated this,” he said, adding, "the facts do matter so I would want to get to the facts before I could reach any conclusions."

— Molly K. Hooper