McConnell: Saudi actions 'abhorrent' and warrant 'response'

McConnell: Saudi actions 'abhorrent' and warrant 'response'

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellDemocrats press FBI, DHS on response to white supremacist violence The Hill's 12:30 Report: Democratic field narrows with Inslee exit McConnell rejects Democrats' 'radical movement' to abolish filibuster MORE (R-Ky.) on Tuesday said Saudi Arabia should be punished for the death of U.S.-based journalist Jamal Khashoggi last month and that senators are reviewing actions to take.

“What obviously happened, as basically certified by the CIA, is completely abhorrent to everything the United States holds dear and stands for in the world so some kind of response to that certainly would be in order,” he told reporters after meeting with the GOP conference.

“We’re discussing what the appropriate response should be,” he said.

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Senators will receive a briefing on U.S.-Saudi relations Wednesday morning from Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoThe Hill's Campaign Report: Democratic field begins to shrink ahead of critical stretch Putin orders response to US missile test The Hill's Morning Report: How will Trump be received at G-7? MORE and Defense Secretary James Mattis. 

The meeting will focus on the war in Yemen, where a Saudi-backed coalition is fighting Iranian rebels, but the circumstances of Khashoggi’s death are expected to come up.

Several media outlets have reported that the CIA concluded before Thanksgiving based on an intercepted phone call that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered Khashoggi’s death.

President TrumpDonald John TrumpThe Hill's Campaign Report: Democratic field begins to shrink ahead of critical stretch To ward off recession, Trump should keep his mouth and smartphone shut Trump: 'Who is our bigger enemy,' Fed chief or Chinese leader? MORE, however, has disputed those reports.

McConnell on Tuesday said the nation has always had “kind of a pragmatic relationship” with Saudi Arabia “regardless of who’s been in the White House.”

“We value their opposition to the Iranians and I think almost no one believes we should completely and totally fracture our relation with the Saudis but, yes, some kind of response is going to be appropriate,” he said. “We’re going to continue to talk about that.” 

A bipartisan group of senators backs the Saudi Arabia Accountability and Yemen Act, which would suspend weapons sales to Saudi Arabia, bar U.S. refueling aircraft from assisting Saudi planes flying missions over Yemen, and sanction people responsible for blocking humanitarian access to Yemen. 

It would also place sanctions on people responsible for Khashoggi’s death and require a report on human rights abuses in Saudi Arabia.