Senators trigger law forcing Trump to probe Saudi journalist's disappearance

Senators trigger law forcing Trump to probe Saudi journalist's disappearance
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President TrumpDonald TrumpTrump defends indicted GOP congressman House to vote Thursday on holding Bannon in contempt Youngkin calls for investigation into Loudoun County School Board amid sexual assault allegations MORE will be required to investigate the disappearance of journalist and Saudi critic Jamal Khashoggi after a letter from senators that invoked sanctions legislation.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerCheney set to be face of anti-Trump GOP How leaving Afghanistan cancels our post-9/11 use of force The unflappable Liz Cheney: Why Trump Republicans have struggled to crush her  MORE (R-Tenn.), committee ranking member Sen. Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezWhy is Trump undermining his administration's historic China policies? Senate GOP signals they'll help bail out Biden's Fed chair Democrats weigh changes to drug pricing measure to win over moderates MORE (D-N.J.) and Sens. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamMayorkas tests positive for COVID-19 breakthrough case A pandemic of hyper-hypocrisy is infecting American politics Republicans' mantra should have been 'Stop the Spread' MORE (R-S.C.) and Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyOvernight Energy & Environment — Presented by the American Petroleum Institute — Democrats address reports that clean energy program will be axed Overnight Health Care — Presented by Carequest — Colin Powell's death highlights risks for immunocompromised On The Money — Democrats tee up Senate spending battles with GOP MORE (D-Vt.), who lead the Appropriations Committee subpanel responsible for the State Department, sent a letter Wednesday to Trump requesting he initiate an investigation under the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act.

The Magnitsky law requires that the president conduct an investigation after a request from the leaders of the Foreign Relations Committee into whether a foreign person is responsible for an extrajudicial killing, torture or other gross violation of internationally recognized human rights against an individual exercising freedom of expression.

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Under the law, the president has to report the findings back to the committee in 120 days, along with a decision on imposing sanctions on the person or persons responsible.

“Therefore, we request that you make a determination on the imposition of sanctions pursuant to the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act with respect to any foreign person responsible for such a violation related to Mr. Khashoggi,” the senators wrote in their letter to Trump. “Our expectation is that in making your determination you will consider any relevant information, including with respect to the highest ranking officials in the Government of Saudi Arabia.”

The letter was co-signed by every member of the Foreign Relations Committee except Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulVaccine 'resisters' are a real problem Democrats fret as longshot candidates pull money, attention Journalist Dave Levinthal discusses 'uptick' in congressional stock trade violations MORE (R-Ky.) Paul has separately vowed to force a vote on blocking arms sales to Saudi Arabia the next time the administration notifies Congress of a sale.

Khashoggi, a Washington Post contributor who has been highly critical of Saudi Arabia’s rulers, has not been seen since last week when he entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to get paperwork for his marriage to his Turkish fiancée.

Turkish officials have claimed Khashoggi was murdered inside the consulate and dismembered. The Saudis have called the allegations “baseless,” holding that he left the consulate alive the same day he arrived.

Earlier Wednesday, Corker said that “everything right now points to Saudi Arabia” being involved, adding, “they’ve got a lot of explaining to do.”

Trump said Wednesday he spoke with Saudi officials about Khashoggi and that the White House has been in touch with the fiancée, Hatice Cengiz, to arrange a visit.

"It's a very sad situation, it's a very bad situation," Trump told reporters during a briefing in the Oval Office on Hurricane Michael.

"We cannot let this happen — to reporters, to anybody," he added.