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A Missing Journalist and 'Severe Punishment' for an Ally: The Stakes Behind the US Investigation Into Saudi Arabia

10-15-2018
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Saudi Arabia is preparing to admit to the killing of Washington Post contributor Jamal Khashoggi, according to a report from CNN

Nearly two weeks have passed since Khashoggi's disappearance. A CNN source says he died during an interrogation that went wrong.  

The US resident and Saudi citizen was last seen entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, on Oct. 2. 

Given that the 60-year-old journalist was an outspoken critic of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Khashoggi's supporters fear the worst.

President Donald Trump says the US is investigating Saudi Arabia's involvement, noting that he's sending Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to meet with the Saudi monarch "immediately." 

"Just spoke to the King of Saudi Arabia who denies any knowledge of whatever may have happened 'to our Saudi Arabian citizen,'" the president tweeted Monday. "He said that they are working closely with Turkey to find answer. I am immediately sending our Secretary of State to meet with King!" Trump continued. 

In an interview with CBS's "60 Minutes" Sunday, Trump predicted, "In the not too distance future I think we'll know the answer."

Also on Monday, Saudi officials agreed to open the doors of the consulate to the Turks in order to investigate. 

The Saudis repeatedly denied involvement in Khashoggi's disappearance. However, according to a report by The Washington Post, Turkish officials claim otherwise and say they have the audio and video to back it up.

Meanwhile, a bipartisan group of senators is calling for sanctions should it be proven the Saudi government was involved in Khashoggi's disappearance. 

"I believe the Trump administration will do something – the president said that. But if he doesn't, Congress will. That I can tell you," Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) told CNN

"Stop military sales, not only put sanctions on Saudi Arabia," suggested Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT). "But most importantly, get out of this terrible, terrible war in Yemen led by the Saudis."  

The president said the punishment will indeed be "severe" but stopped short of saying what exactly it will be.

"There's a lot at stake, especially so because this man was a reporter. There's something – you'll be surprised to hear me say that – there's something really terrible and disgusting about that if that were the case," Trump said.  

Critics have called on the president to withdraw from a $110 billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia. 

But President Trump says it's a precarious situation, noting that pulling out of the deal could risk American jobs. 

"I don't like the concept of stopping an investment of $110 billion into the United States because you know what they're going to do? They're going to take that money and spend it in Russia or China, or someplace else," said Mr. Trump. 
 
There are also growing demands for Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin to drop out of The Future Investment Initiative summit in Riyadh next week. 
 
"I don't think we should continue with business as usual until we know exactly what's happened here," said Rubio. "What we do know is he walked into that consulate and never came out." 

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