With reporting by Rebecca Kaplan
Republican Rep. Ed Royce and Democratic Rep. Eliot Engel, the chairman and ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, wrote a letter to President Trump Friday pressuring him to investigate Jamal Khashoggi's disappearance. Khashoggi, a Saudi journalist and Washington Post columnist, disappeared in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul last week. Turkish officials claim that Khashoggi was killed and dismembered while in the consulate.
Royce and Engel called on Mr. Trump to investigate Khashoggi's disappearance under the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act, which allows the president to impose sanctions on persons who have engaged in human rights violations. Arequested the president conduct a Magnitsky Act investigation in a letter on Wednesday.
"We support this request, and hope necessary determinations will be made promptly using findings of the administration's investigation," Royce and Engel wrote in their letter.
The two also supported additional security steps to ensure a similar situation could not occur in the United States.
"We urge your administration to review Saudi nationals credentialed to diplomatic and consular posts in the United States and Saudi diplomatic and consular activities within the United States," the two wrote. "There should be no chance that what apparently happened in Ankara could happen here."
Royce and Engel called for Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to withdraw from attending "Davos in the Desert," an economic conference in Riyadh which will take place later this month. Even though several western tech and media companies have announced that they will no longer participate in the conference due to Khashoggi's disappearance, Mnuchin will still be in attendance.
"Unless the Saudi government fully discloses what it knows about this disappearance and likely murder, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin should cancel plans to attend the upcoming "Davos in the Desert,"" Royce and Engel wrote, adding that his appearance would "potentially undermine efforts" to show that allegedly killing dissidents is unacceptable.
Mr. Trump has tried to forge a strong relationship with Saudi Arabia. His son-in-law, Jared Kushner, is friendly with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The administration sees Saudi Arabia as a partner to counter the influence of Iran in the Middle East. Royce and Engel alluded to this relationship in their letter, while expressing their concern about the treatment of Khashoggi.
"Mr. President, we value our relations with Saudi Arabia. Yet murder and other blatant violations of international norms and agreements cannot be done with impunity," they wrote.