It’s been more than a week since Turkish surveillance photos show Jamal Khashoggi, a U.S.-based journalist and Saudi dissident, walking into the Kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul — and he hasn’t been seen since.
Khashoggi’s disappearance — and suspected murder — threatens to unleash a “bipartisan tsunami,” as Washington, D.C. lawmakers digging for the truth are confronted with evidence indicating the possibility of a Saudi-sanctioned hit.
“This would be a game-changer to the nth degree,” Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said Thursday. “The burden is now on Saudi Arabia to account for [Khashoggi’s] time inside the consulate.”
The crisis has heightened tensions among already wary regional powers, and could also loosen the close — but complex — ties forged between Saudi Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman and President Trump, who said Thursday he wanted to get to the bottom of the Khashoggi mystery, too.
“I have to find out what happened,” Trump told “FOX & Friends,” adding Khashoggi’s Oct. 2 is “very serious” and American investigators have been sent to work with Turkey and Saudi Arabia officials.
Trump, however, still described the U.S.-Saudi relationship as being “excellent,” and later expressed little interest in canceling or scaling back a massive, $110 billion arms deal with the Kingdom.
“I don’t like stopping massive amounts of money coming into our country,” Trump said.
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told Fox News on Thursday that the committee launched an investigation into the disappearance under the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act because “it’s important to know what happened.”
“If the Saudi government ordered a guy to be abducted — they killed him, they chopped him up, they sent in a bunch of people to kill him and chopped him up and then they left,” Rubio said. “If that’s what happened, I am telling you, what’s going to happen here on Capitol Hill is a complete revolt of our policies with Saudi Arabia.”
Rubio cautioned all facts must first be corroborated, but said the situation could take “a negative turn pretty quickly.”
The Washington Post reported Wednesday evening that the Crown Price had personally ordered Khashoggi lured to the Kingdom and detained. The intelligence was allegedly gleaned from U.S. intercepts of Saudi officials and interviews with Khashoggi’s friends.
Beyond that, however, most of the information implicating Saudi Arabia has come from Turkey, a country at odds with the Saudis on numerous regional fronts.
Turkish officials’ contention the 59-year-old Khashoggi was murdered and dismembered inside the building by members of an elite “assassination squad” has yet to be bolstered with any evidence. Adding to the confusion, allegations printed by one pro-government Turkey paper have been frequently contradicted by reports in other state-aligned Turkish media outlets.
Saudi Arabia, for its part, has called the allegation it abducted or harmed Khashoggi “baseless.” However, the Kingdom has also offered no evidence to support its claim the writer simply walked out of the consulate and vanished.
If the Turkish claims prove correct, however, the fallout could be felt region-wide — including giving political ammunition to Saudi and U.S. adversary Iran.
Sen. Bob Corker, the Republican chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told Reuters on Wednesday the case could complicate the U.S. strategy to contain Iran.
“It could affect multiple things that we’re working with them on that are very important,” he said.
Fox News’ Samuel Chamberlain, Lukas Mikelionis and the Associated Press contributed to this report.