Ohio lawmakers upset by death of Saudi reporter
By Jack Torry
WASHINGTON — Ohio lawmakers reacted in a bipartisan fury to reports that Saudi agents might have murdered Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, with some suggesting that the United States should enforce sanctions against Saudi Arabia.
Both of Ohio’s U.S. senators — Republican Sen. Rob Portman and Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown — expressed alarm at the mysterious disappearance of Khashoggi, whose columns have appeared in The Washington Post and who has not been seen since entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, last week.
Portman joined 20 other senators in saying that Khashoggi’s disappearance “suggest(s) he could be a victim of a gross violation of internationally recognized human rights.”
The senators, who included both Democrats and Republicans, called on the Trump administration to consider sanctions for any “foreign person responsible,” under a 2012 law named after Sergei Magnitsky, a Russian who was tortured, denied medical attention and died in a jail cell in Moscow in 2009.
Those sanctions could include freezing any U.S. assets held by foreign officials and preventing those officials from entering the United States. Washington has been a longtime ally to Saudi Arabia, but Khashoggi has been a critic of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, the major power in Saudi Arabia.
Sherrod Brown said the Trump administration “must send a clear message to the Saudis that we will not tolerate the kidnapping or killing of journalists,” adding that any investigation must be conducted by an “independent organization, not the Saudi government.”
Brown also called on Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin to cancel his plans to attend an international economic conference next month in Riyadh.
Rep. Steve Stivers, R-Upper Arlington, called reports of Khashoggi’s death “tragic and extremely concerning. We cannot tolerate this behavior, and if the facts show Saudi Arabia was responsible, I would support a response.”
Some lawmakers, such as Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Niles, expressed a willingness to scale back the billions of dollars in arms sales by the United States to Saudi Arabia.
“Instead of upholding America’s values by cracking down on Saudi Arabia, the president instead wants to give them more weapons,” Ryan said. “It’s a betrayal of our global reputation.”
But in an interview on CNN, Rep. Mike Turner, R-Dayton, was cool to curbing arms sales, saying the United States should be focused on individuals linked to the suspected slaying and have them “held accountable.”
Rep. Bill Johnson, a Republican from Marietta, said that if the Saudis did kill Khashoggi, it would be “deeply troubling and would warrant a response from the administration.”