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 YoungSenators pressure Trump to help end humanitarian crisis in Kashmir Congress set for chaotic fall sprint Overnight Defense: Senate fails to override Trump veto on Saudi arms sales | Two US troops killed in Afghanistan | Senators tee up nominations, budget deal ahead of recess 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 CorkerTrump announces, endorses ambassador to Japan's Tennessee Senate bid Meet the key Senate player in GOP fight over Saudi Arabia Trump says he's 'very happy' some GOP senators have 'gone on to greener pastures' MORE (R-Tenn.) and Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezAs NFIP reauthorization deadline looms, Congress must end lethal subsidies Senate Democrats warn Trump: Don't invite Putin to G-7 Pelosi warns Mnuchin to stop 'illegal' .3B cut to foreign aid 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 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.) 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 Health Care — Presented by Partnership for America's Health Care Future — Walmart to stop selling e-cigarettes | Senators press FDA to pull most e-cigarettes immediately | House panel tees up e-cig hearing for next week Hillicon Valley: Lawmakers say Zuckerberg to 'cooperate' on antitrust probes | Dems see victory after McConnell backs election security funds | Twitter takes down fake pro-Saudi accounts Bipartisan group of senators urges FDA to pull most e-cigarettes immediately MORE (Ill.), the No. 2 ranking Senate Democrat.

But Senate Majority Whip John CornynJohn CornynDC statehood push faces long odds despite record support Trump judicial picks face rare GOP opposition Zuckerberg woos Washington critics during visit 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