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 Young (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 Corker (R-Tenn.) and Bob Menendez (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 Graham (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 Durbin (Ill.), the No. 2 ranking Senate Democrat.
But Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (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
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