GOP lawmaker on Khashoggi killing: 'Journalists disappear' all over the world

Rep. Chris StewartChristopher (Chris) Douglas StewartMoulton, Stewart pen op-ed backing three-digit suicide prevention hotline FCC proposes new 3-digit suicide prevention hotline number GOP lawmaker's town hall erupts in shouting over mass shootings, Trump MORE (R-Utah) on Tuesday appeared to downplay Saudi Arabia’s involvement in the killing of U.S.-based journalist Jamal Khashoggi, saying that "journalists disappear" in lots of countries.

“Journalists disappear all over the country. Twenty have been killed in Mexico. You don’t think it happens in Turkey and China? Of course it does,” Stewart, who serves on the House Intelligence Committee, told CNN anchor Brianna Keilar on Tuesday after CIA Director Gina Haspel briefed a select group of senators on the death of the Washington Post contributor.

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"We have to have a relationship with these countries," Stewart said. “We have to have a relationship with players we don’t agree with."

Stewart insisted that Saudi leadership will be held “accountable, including the crown prince, for whatever action he may have been involved with,” shortly before discussing how lawmakers should set their sights on protecting U.S. interests with the Saudis.

“What will bring an end to the war in Yemen?" he said. "You have to balance all that was as we move forward.”

“As the administration moves forward, is there not a commitment to telling the truth?” Keilar asked him. “It seems like what is bothering the senators, bipartisan among them — including folks who supported Saudi Arabia and the Trump administration is that the Trump administration turned a blind eye to the facts.”

Stewart responded by defending President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump conversation with foreign leader part of complaint that led to standoff between intel chief, Congress: report Pelosi: Lewandowski should have been held in contempt 'right then and there' Trump to withdraw FEMA chief nominee: report MORE and his support of Saudi leadership amid the ongoing investigation into Khashoggi’s death.

Senators emerged from Tuesday's closed-door briefing with Haspel by blaming Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for the death of Khashoggi and promising further action.

"I have zero question in my mind that the crown prince directed the murder and was kept apprised of the situation all the way through. I have zero question in my mind," Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman 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.), who is retiring in January, said after the briefing.

“You have to be willfully blind not to come to the conclusion that this was orchestrated and organized by people under the command of MBS and that he was intricately involved in the demise of Mr. Khashoggi,” said Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamGOP signals unease with Barr's gun plan Overnight Defense: Trump says he has 'many options' on Iran | Hostage negotiator chosen for national security adviser | Senate Dems block funding bill | Documents show Pentagon spent at least 4K at Trump's Scotland resort GOP's Kennedy sends warning shot to Trump nominee Menashi MORE (R-S.C.), using the crown prince’s initials.

Khashoggi was killed after entering the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2. He had been an outspoken critic of Saudi leadership as an opinion writer for The Washington Post.

Riyadh has made efforts to distance the crown prince from the death following news reports that the CIA concluded that Khashoggi was killed on his orders.

Trump has been reluctant to point the finger of blame at the crown prince, saying the Saudi leader has denied any involvement in the journalist's slaying.