Sen. Marco Rubio said Sunday that the Trump administration should skip an international investors conference in Saudi Arabia until more is known about what happened to missing journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin this month is scheduled attend the event in Riyadh known as “Davos in the Desert,” even as corporate leaders are pulling out over concerns about the fate of Mr. Khashoggi, a critic of the Saudi regime.
“I don’t think he should go,” Mr. Rubio said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “I don’t think any of our government officials should be going and pretending it’s business as usual until we know what’s happened here.”
The Florida Republican also said that Congress would respond strongly no matter how the administration may react.
“I believe the Trump administration will do something, the president said that, but if he doesn’t, Congress will, that I can tell you with 100 percent certainty,” said Mr. Rubio.
“With almost full unanimity across the board, Republicans and Democrats, there will be a very strong congressional response if in fact the Saudis lured him into that consulate, murdered him, cut up his body, and disposed of it,” he said.
.@marcorubio to @jaketapper on Secretary Mnuchin attending economic summit in Saudi Arabia: “I don’t think we should continue as business as usual until we know exactly what’s happened here… I don’t think he should go.” #CNNSOTUpic.twitter.com/8U28j5jZlk
— State of the Union (@CNNSotu) October 14, 2018
Mr. Khashoggi, a columnist for The Washington Post, has not been seen since Oct. 2, when he walked into the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey. His disappearance has touched off a diplomatic crisis amid fears that he may have been killed at the behest of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
The White House has come under pressure to impose economic sanctions and halt arms sales to Saudi Arabia. President Trump has said “we would be punishing ourselves” by canceling arm sales.
Larry Kudlow, director of the White House National Economic Council, said Sunday that Mr. Mnuchin still plans to attend the conference, which he described as a meeting on stopping terrorist financing.
“I spoke to him last evening, and at the moment he’s intending to go because of the importance of the issue of ending terrorist financing,” Mr. Kudlow said on ABC’s “This Week.”
.@GStephanopoulos: Is it appropriate for Treasury Secretary Mnuchin to attend the investor conference in Saudi Arabia?Director of White House National Economic Council Larry Kudlow: “He’s intending to go because of the importance of the issue of ending terrorist financing” pic.twitter.com/5HNdzO7rvH
— This Week (@ThisWeekABC) October 14, 2018
“But along with the president and the general investigation, Mr. Mnuchin will make up his mind as the week progresses and as new information surfaces,” Mr. Kudlow said.
Sen. Bernard Sanders, Vermont independent, also expressed outrage over the possibility that Mr. Khashoggi may have been murdered.
“We cannot have an ally who murders in cold blood in their own consulate,” said Mr. Sanders.