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 YoungSave wildlife, save ourselves Bipartisan senators seek funding for pork producers forced to euthanize livestock The Hill's Coronavirus Report: Rep. Hurd says China engaged in global disinformation campaign; US unemployment highest since Great Depression 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 CorkerRomney is only GOP senator not on new White House coronavirus task force McConnell, Romney vie for influence over Trump's trial RNC says ex-Trump ambassador nominee's efforts 'to link future contributions to an official action' were 'inappropriate' MORE (R-Tenn.) and Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezSenate panel approves Trump nominee under investigation Hillicon Valley: Trump threatens Michigan, Nevada over mail-in voting | Officials call for broadband expansion during pandemic | Democrats call for investigation into Uber-Grubhub deal Senate chairman schedules vote on Trump nominee under investigation 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 GrahamSenate confirms Ratcliffe to be Trump's spy chief Abrams announces endorsements in 7 Senate races Schumer dubs GOP 'conspiracy caucus' amid Obama-era probes 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 DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinSenators weigh traveling amid coronavirus ahead of Memorial Day Congress headed toward unemployment showdown Senate to try to pass fix for Paycheck Protection Program Thursday MORE (Ill.), the No. 2 ranking Senate Democrat.

But Senate Majority Whip John CornynJohn CornynFive questions about the next COVID-19 relief package Hillicon Valley: Lawmakers demand answers on Chinese COVID hacks | Biden re-ups criticism of Amazon | House Dem bill seeks to limit microtargeting Lawmakers ask for briefings on Chinese targeting of coronavirus research 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