Ryan signals support for sanctions if Saudis killed Khashoggi

Ryan signals support for sanctions if Saudis killed Khashoggi
© Matt Litman

Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanCalif. congresswoman-elect bumps into Pelosi at airport How this year’s freshmen can save the Congress — and themselves Democrat Katie Porter unseats GOP's Mimi Walters MORE (R-Wis.) signaled that Congress will look at imposing sanctions on Saudi Arabia's government if it is found to have killed missing Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Ryan said it would be “atrocious” if it’s found that Saudi Arabia murdered Khashoggi, and that it could mark a “real setback” in the Middle Eastern nation’s relationship with the United States.

“First of all, this is really disturbing. If this is the case, it is atrocious and we have laws for this,” Ryan said in an interview with “CBS This Morning.”

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The Speaker pointed to the Magnitsky Act as one avenue Congress could pursue. The 2012 law could trigger a process to allow the government to sanction specific Saudi officials by freezing their assets and banning them from entering the U.S.

“So we have sanction laws on the book for situations like this. So I think these are the things we will be looking at in Congress,” Ryan continued. “I’ve got to say this was supposed to be a new Saudi government that was going to be reforming, opening up transparency, moderating Islam, and to see something like this could be a real setback.”

Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist who was living and working in the U.S., disappeared in the Saudi Arabia consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2. Turkish officials say Khashoggi, a critic of the Saudi royal family, was murdered there and dismembered.

But President TrumpDonald John TrumpBroward County official Brenda Snipes submits resignation after criticism Retired lieutenant general tears into Trump over attacks against Navy SEAL: 'Disgusting' Senate barrels toward showdown over Trump's court picks MORE has cast doubt on that account, saying the Saudi king forcefully denied having anything to do with Khashoggi’s death and noting that the U.S. sells billions of dollars in arms to the kingdom.

"I think we have to find out what happened first," Trump said. "Here we go again with, you know, you're guilty until proven innocent. I don't like that. We just went through that with Justice Kavanaugh and he was innocent all the way as far as I'm concerned."

While Ryan’s comments on Saudi Arabia were tougher than Trump’s, the retiring Speaker also said the U.S.-Saudi relationship would survive this crisis.

“Well, there are a lot of macro policy implications here and the relationship with Saudi Arabia is multifaceted. It’s very important,” Ryan said. “I think we have to take a full-scale view of all of this. But there is a lot to this relationship that will persist no matter what.”

Ryan spoke to CBS in between campaign stops in upstate New York, and was joined in the interview by Rep. Elise StefanikElise Marie StefanikHouse GOP to force members to give up leadership positions if running for higher office Ocasio-Cortez: 'I was stopped because it was assumed I was an intern' House Dems can take on climate change — if they don’t get distracted by Trump MORE (R-N.Y.). The Speaker said the GOP could attract more female voters by having people like Stefanik, 34, lead recruitment efforts.

“This is the future of the Republican Party. This is the future of our country. People like Elise,” Ryan said.

Stefanik, a leader of the centrist Tuesday Group who has sometimes clashed with the president, also slammed Trump’s “horseface” remarks.

“I think it’s unacceptable. I disagree with the rhetoric. I’ve disagreed with the president’s rhetoric numerous times when it comes to how he addresses women,” the congresswoman said.

“But as I go door to door in my district right now, voters are really paying attention to, both male and female voters, the record of results. And keeping your promises. And growing the economy.”