Activists, members of the Human Rights Association Istanbul branch, holding posters with photos of missing Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, talk to members of the media, during a protest in his support near the Saudi Arabia consulate in Istanbul, Oc
Activists, members of the Human Rights Association Istanbul branch, holding posters with photos of missing Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, talk to members of the media, during a protest in his support near the Saudi Arabia consulate in Istanbul, Oc

WASHINGTON - A group of U.S. senators is putting pressure on U.S. President Donald Trump to investigate the disappearance of a Saudi journalist that could result in sanctions against Saudi officials and entities.

In a letter to Trump Wednesday, senators invoked the Global Magnitsky Act of 2016, calling for an investigation in the case of Jamal Khashoggi, who hasn’t been seen since he entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul last week.

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“The recent disappearance of Saudi journalist and Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi suggests that he could be a victim of a gross violation of internationally recognized human rights,” the letter said. “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.”

The president then must report to the Senate within 120 days with a determination and a decision on the imposition of sanctions.

This image taken from CCTV video obtained by the T
This image taken from CCTV video obtained by the Turkish newspaper Hurriyet and made available on Oct. 9, 2018, claims to show Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Oct. 2, 2018.

Administration contacts Saudis

The White House said Wednesday that top Trump administration officials have spoken to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman about the mysterious disappearance of Khashoggi, whom Turkish officials say they believe was killed last week inside Riyadh’s consulate in Istanbul.

National security adviser John Bolton and senior adviser Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, talked with Salman on Tuesday, while Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had a follow-up call with the Saudi leader to reiterate the U.S. demand for information about the case, the White House said.

“In both calls, they asked for more details and for the Saudi government to be transparent in the investigation process,” the White House said.

“In both calls, they asked for more details and for the Saudi government to be transparent in the investigation process,” the White House said.

Spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said the U.S. is continuing to monitor the unfolding investigation in Istanbul, but offered no information about what the crown prince told the U.S. officials about Khashoggi’s disappearance.

Trump told reporters he had talked with officials in Saudi Arabia “at the highest level” about Khashoggi’s disappearance, but offered no indication on his whereabouts.

Tawakkol Karman, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate fo
Tawakkol Karman, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate for 2011 holds a picture of missing Saudi writer Jamal Khashoggi as she speaks to journalists near the Saudi Arabia consulate, in Istanbul, Turkey.

“It’s a very sad situation, this is a bad situation,” Trump said. “It’s a terrible thing.

“Nobody knows what happened,” Trump said, adding, “We want to get to the bottom of it. We cannot let this happen, to reporters, to anyone.”

Trump declined to say whom he talked with in the Saudi government. He said his aides have been in contact with Khashoggi’s fiancee, Hatice Cengiz, and hope to set up a meeting with her at the White House.

Officials leave Saudi Arabia consulate in Istanbul
Officials leave Saudi Arabia consulate in Istanbul, Oct. 7, 2018. A friend of a Saudi journalist who went missing in Istanbul says officials told him to "make your funeral preparations" as the Washington Post contributor "was killed" at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul.

?Turkish officials: Khashoggi killed

Turkish officials say they believe Khashoggi, a critic of Salman who has been living in self-imposed exile in the U.S., was killed Oct. 2 inside the consulate when he went there to pick up documents to allow him to marry Cengiz, a Turkish national, or perhaps spirited away to Riyadh.

Saudi Arabia has called the allegation “baseless” but has offered no proof that Khashoggi left the consulate alive, nor has Turkey produced evidence that he was killed inside the diplomatic outpost.

The Washington Post quoted a Turkish official as saying authorities suspect a 15-member team killed the journalist at the consulate. U.S. intelligence intercepted communications of Saudi officials discussing a plan to capture Khashoggi before he vanished, according to the Post, which cited two people familiar with the information.

The Magnitsky Act is named for Sergei Magnitsky, a Russian lawyer who died in a Moscow prison after he reported tax fraud involving government officials.