Saudi Arabia would have “hell to pay” if reports that journalist Jamal Khashoggi was murdered inside a Saudi consulate in Istanbul are confirmed, a senior Republican senator has warned.
Lindsey Graham said he had "never been more disturbed than I am right now" about the allegations that the high profile reporter and prominent critic of the middle eastern regime was killed by Saudi intelligence officers in the country's compound in Turkey.
The South Carolina senators comments came as US president Donald Trump vowed to "get to the bottom" of what happened.
Saudi Arabia has denied the reports as "baseless allegations" and claimed that its government officials arrived in Istanbul over the weekend to investigate Mr Khashoggi’s disappearance.
But Mr Graham said that if the journalist had been murdered "there would be hell to pay."
He added: "If they're this brazen it shows contempt. Contempt for everything we stand for, contempt for the relationship."
Mr Khashoggi, a Saudi journalist and frequent critic of the kingdom’s royal family, can be seen on security camera footage entering the consulate in Istanbul on 2 October as his wife was seen waiting outside. He has reportedly not been seen since.
“If this man was murdered in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, that would cross every line of normality in the international community,” Mr Graham said.
His comments came as 22 US senators signed a letter to Mr Trump on triggering an American investigation and determination of whether human rights sanctions should be imposed over Mr Khashoggi's disappearance.
They said they had triggered a provision of the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act requiring the president to determine whether a foreign person is responsible for a gross human rights violation.
"Our expectation is that in making your determination you will consider any relevant information, including with respect to the highest ranking officials in the Government of Saudi Arabia," they said.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told The Independent in a statement that the US was requesting additional information from the Saudi government into the disappearance.
"White House National Security Advisor, Ambassador John Bolton and White House Senior Advisor, Jared Kushner spoke to Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman yesterday about the missing Washington Post journalist," she said. "Secretary of State Mike Pompeo then had a follow up call with the Crown Prince to reiterate the United States request for information. In both calls they asked for more details and for the Saudi government to be transparent in the investigation process."
The reporter’s disappearance spurred international headlines after The New York Times reported he had allegedly been dismembered within the consulate, citing a senior Turkish official.
Saudi Arabia officials said the information likely was not provided by sources “who are informed of the investigation or are authorised to comment on the issue,” claiming Mr Khashoggi left the consulate shortly after his arrival.
Speaking in the White House, Mr said he was also disturbed by the controversial developments surrounding the journalist’s disappearance.
“We are very disappointed to see what's going on. We don't like it,” he said. “We don’t like it at all. And we're going to get to the bottom of it.”