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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 John TrumpUSAID administrator tests positive for COVID-19 Kamala Harris, Stacey Abrams among nominees for Time magazine's 2020 Person of the Year DOJ appeals ruling preventing it from replacing Trump in E. Jean Carroll defamation lawsuit 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 CorkerGOP lawmaker patience runs thin with Trump tactics Former GOP senator: Republicans cannot let Trump's 'reckless' post-election claims stand Cornyn: Relationships with Trump like 'women who get married and think they're going to change their spouse' MORE (R-Tenn.), committee ranking member Sen. Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezDemocrats urge YouTube to remove election misinformation, step up efforts ahead of Georgia runoff Democratic senators urge Facebook to take action on anti-Muslim bigotry Trump appointee sparks bipartisan furor for politicizing media agency MORE (D-N.J.) and Sens. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamClyburn: Biden falling short on naming Black figures to top posts Feinstein departure from top post sets stage for Judiciary fight Spokesperson says Tennessee Democrat made 'poor analogy' in saying South Carolina voters have extra chromosome MORE (R-S.C.) and Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the UAE Embassy in Washington, DC - Trump OKs transition; Biden taps Treasury, State experience Durbin seeks to become top-ranking Democrat on Judiciary panel Feinstein to step down as top Democrat on Judiciary Committee 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 PaulLoeffler isolating after possible COVID-19 infection Rick Scott tests positive for coronavirus Overnight Defense: Formal negotiations inch forward on defense bill with Confederate base name language | Senators look to block B UAE arms sales | Trump administration imposes Iran sanctions over human rights abuses 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.

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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.