It’s so frustrating. The Saudis are about to get away with murder. The official explanation last night from Riyadh was Jamal Khashoggi got into a fight at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul and was killed. 18 men, according to the Saudis, have been arrested. Khashoggi’s editor at the Washington Post said so much with her two-word response.
— Karen Attiah (@KarenAttiah) October 20, 2018
For the President of the United States, the Saudi story was an “important first step.” Asked if he believes the explanation, Donald Trump said, “I do, I do.” Trump wants this to go away, quickly. The incredulous explanation from Riyadh will probably be the only step Trump needs to absolve the Saudi’s of any responsibility. Susan B. Glasser writes in The New Yorker:
“Until Thursday, well into the third week since Khashoggi’s disappearance, Trump never even admitted the obvious fact of Khashoggi’s likely death, and he continues to act more like the Saudis’ lawyer in the court of world opinion than the aggrieved defender of human rights and free speech that an American President is supposed to be at such a moment.
“I’m not surprised by Washington’s obsession with the story: it’s the Trump Presidency distilled to its morally compromising, press-bashing, truth-denying essence. At a time when many question American leadership in the world, Trump’s combination of credulity and cynicism in response to the brutal murder of a dissident who sought refuge here gives the world’s bad guys yet another reason to cheer.”
Remember, the Saudi’s said until yesterday that Khashoggi walked out of the compound alive. Now we’re supposed to believe he confronted 15 Saudi security toughs, including one with a bone saw, and didn’t survive a fistfight. The New York Times spoke with an unidentified Saudi official who for the first time offered a narrative of what happened.
“The kingdom had a general order to return dissidents living abroad, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation was continuing. When the consulate in Istanbul reported that Mr. Khashoggi would be coming on Oct. 2 to pick up a document needed for his coming marriage, General Assiri dispatched a 15-man team to confront him.
“The team included Maher Abdulaziz Mutrib, a security officer identified by The New York Times this week as a frequent member of the crown prince’s security detail during foreign trips, the official said. Mr. Mutrib had been chosen because he had worked with Mr. Khashoggi a decade ago in the Saudi Embassy in London and knew him personally.
“But the order to return Mr. Khashoggi to the kingdom was misinterpreted as it made its way down the chain of command, the Saudi official said, and a confrontation ensued when Mr. Khashoggi saw the men. He tried to flee, the men stopped him, punches were thrown, Mr. Khashoggi screamed and one of the men put him in a chokehold, strangling him to death, the official said.”
U.S. Government officials have heard the audio recording of the murder. From The Washington Post:
“CIA officials have listened to an audio recording that Turkish officials say proves the journalist was killed and dismembered by a team of Saudi agents inside the consulate, according to people familiar with the matter. If verified, the recording would make it difficult for the White House to accept the Saudi version that Khashoggi’s death was effectively an accident.”
From The New York Times:
“But Representative Adam Schiff of California was not buying the Saudi explanation. Mr. Schiff, the senior Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said in an interview Friday night that “if Khashoggi was fighting inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, he was fighting for his life with people sent to capture or kill him.”
“Mr. Schiff, who said he had received a detailed, classified briefing earlier in the day on what American spy services believe were the circumstances, said that the Saudi version “was not credible.” He said he could not disclose what the intelligence agency briefers told him.”
From Democratic Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia:
The Saudi “explanation” for murdering journalist and Virginia resident Jamal Khashoggi in a consulate—a fistfight gone wrong—is insulting.
Since the Trump Administration won’t stand up against atrocity, Congress must.
— Tim Kaine (@timkaine) October 20, 2018
But many are skeptical Congress has will to do anything.
If the U.S. had a Congress, it would launch hearings on how the sprawling conflicts of interest of Trump & Kushner are influencing the White House’s complicity in the cover-up of Khashoggi’s murder. What we have instead is a partisan majority that doesn’t love its country enough.
— Walter Shaub (@waltshaub) October 20, 2018