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 YoungOvernight Defense: US to send 1K more troops to Mideast amid Iran tensions | Iran threatens to break limit on uranium production in 10 days | US accuses Iran of 'nuclear blackmail' | Details on key defense bill amendments Overnight Defense: US to send 1K more troops to Mideast amid Iran tensions | Iran threatens to break limit on uranium production in 10 days | US accuses Iran of 'nuclear blackmail' | Details on key defense bill amendments Senators revive effort to create McCain human rights commission 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 CorkerPress: How 'Nervous Nancy' trumped Trump Press: How 'Nervous Nancy' trumped Trump Amash gets standing ovation at first town hall after calling for Trump's impeachment MORE (R-Tenn.) and Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezSenate to vote on blocking Trump's Saudi arms deal as soon as this week There is a severe physician shortage and it will only worsen Democrats ask Fed to probe Trump's Deutsche Bank ties 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 GrahamOvernight Defense: Shanahan exit shocks Washington | Pentagon left rudderless | Lawmakers want answers on Mideast troop deployment | Senate could vote on Saudi arms deal this week | Pompeo says Trump doesn't want war with Iran Shanahan drama shocks Capitol Hill, leaving Pentagon rudderless Shanahan drama shocks Capitol Hill, leaving Pentagon rudderless 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 DurbinOvernight Defense: Shanahan exit shocks Washington | Pentagon left rudderless | Lawmakers want answers on Mideast troop deployment | Senate could vote on Saudi arms deal this week | Pompeo says Trump doesn't want war with Iran Senators demand Trump explain decision to deploy troops amid Iran tensions Senators demand Trump explain decision to deploy troops amid Iran tensions MORE (Ill.), the No. 2 ranking Senate Democrat.

But Senate Majority Whip John CornynJohn CornynWillie Nelson on supporting O'Rourke: 'Anything he wants to do, I'm with Beto' Willie Nelson on supporting O'Rourke: 'Anything he wants to do, I'm with Beto' Koch political arm endorses Colorado Sen. Gardner 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