The Saudis Continue To Lie About Jamal Khashoggi, And Trump Is Letting Them

It's been a month since Jamal Khashoggi disappeared after entering the Saudi consulate in Turkey. The Saudis are continuing to lie about it, and the Trump White House is letting them get away with it.

One month after the disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi after he walked into the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul, the Washington Post Editoral Board notes that we are still waiting for answers from the Saudi government and that the Trump Administration appears to be content to let them get away with murder:

Jamal Khashoogi walked in to the Saudi Consulate four weeks ago on Tuesday to obtain a simple document allowing him to marry. Instead, he was brutally murdered by a team of 15 agents sent from Riyadh. Saudi authorities now acknowledge the crime was premeditated. Yet much about it remains undisclosed, including what happened to Mr. Khashoggi’s body, which has not been returned to his family.

Rather than answer those questions, the Saudi government — and its de facto accomplices in the Trump administration — have gone silent, evidently hoping that demands for accountability will fade away now that the story has been pushed from the front pages. That should not be allowed to happen.

What occurred inside the Saudi Consulate on Oct. 2 is not a mystery. The basic facts are well known to senior Turkish and U.S. officials. The Turks have an audio recording of Mr. Khashoggi’s final moments that they have shared with CIA Director Gina Haspel, who, in turn, has briefed President Trump.

The Turkish account, leaked to the media, is that the veteran journalist and Post columnist was immediately assaulted upon entering the consulate. His fingers were severed, and he was injected with a drug before being dismembered by an autopsy specialist who arrived in Istanbul with a bone saw. What the Turks still don’t know has been publicly voiced by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan: Where is Mr. Khashoggi’s body? And who ordered and oversaw this grisly operation?

The Saudis know the answers to both those questions, and Mr. Trump might, too. Experts on Saudi Arabia are virtually unanimous in saying that such an audacious mission must have been known about, and most likely was ordered, by the kingdom’s de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. U.S. intelligence intercepts indicated that the crown prince ordered a plot to lure Mr. Khashoggi, a persistent if mild critic, to Saudi Arabia from exile so that he could be silenced. Two of Mohammed bin Salman’s closest aides and five probable members of his security detail already have been implicated.


Congress should not permit this travesty to continue. It should summon Ms. Haspel and other senior U.S. officials and determine what they know about the killing. Then it should take decisive action to impose sanctions on those responsible — including, if the available evidence points to him, Mohammed bin Salman — and reshape U.S. relations with Saudi Arabia.

None of this is surprising, of course, because from the very beginning the Saudi strategy has been to deny the truth, evade efforts to investigate Khashoggi’s disappearance and engage in lie after lie and coverup after coverup designed to protect the leadership in Riyadh in general and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman specifically.

In the immediate aftermath of Khashoggi’s disappearance, of course, the Saudi’s stuck with the easily rebutted claim that, while he had visited the consulate as scheduled on October 2nd, he left after obtaining the document he needed to allow him to get married in Turkey, which apparently consisted of an official declaration of his divorce from his first wife. This claim was contradicted by both Khashoggi’s fiance, who had accompanied him to the neighborhood where the consulate is located and was waiting outside for him in a location where she would have seen him leave, and by the Turkish police, who released surveillance camera footage showing Khashoggi walking into the consulate and never walking out. When they were asked to provide evidence to support their claim that Khashoggi had left the building, the Saudis absurdly claimed that their security cameras were only designed to live-stream video and did not record video.

After it became clear that this lie was not holding water, it was being reported that the Saudis were preparing to put forward the theory that Khashoggi’s disappearance was due to an operation by what President Trump described as ‘rogue killers’ who acted without the knowledge or consent of their superiors This ridiculous plot was being cooked up at the same time that Turkish authorities had already put forward the seemingly obvious conclusion that Khashoggi had died inside the consulate and revealed certain facts surrounding his death, including the details surrounding the arrival and departure of a team of fifteen Saudis linked to the Crown Prince, military, and intelligence services who allegedly were involved in whatever happened to the Washington Post columnist and Saudi dissident. Among these revelations was the fact that nearly all of the members of the aforementioned fifteen person team, including the alleged leaders, were linked in some way to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is the de facto leader of the country in place of a father who, according to some reports, may be suffering from the early symptoms of dementia. As I noted at the time, this was an entirely implausible explanation that required one to forget everything we know about how things actually operate in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Finally, after it was that they were looking to pin responsibility for Khashoggi’s fate on a fall guy, the Saudi’s put forward an explanation claiming that Khashoggi’s death was the result of an operation that was carried out by people close to the Crown Prince but done entirely without his knowledge or authorization. The explanation also claimed that the original intent of the operation had been to question Khashoggi and/or return him surreptitiously to the KSA. This story was no more credible than previous explanations, of course, but that is precisely the position that the Saudi’s took when they finally released an official “explanation” for Khashoggi’s disappearance and death that acknowledged that he was, in fact, dead and that his death had occurred when he was inside the consulate. This explanation, though, maintained the hard to believe a claim that the operation that led to Khashoggi’s death, which Riyadh maintained at the time was due to a rendition (a/k/a kidnapping) operation gone awry. Now, finally, the Saudis have acknowledged that it was the intention of the fifteen man team that arrived in Istanbul the morning of the day Khashoggi was scheduled to visit the consulate and left before sundown the same day to kill Khashoggi, although they continue to maintain the increasingly implausible claim that the Crown Prince knew nothing about what was being carried out in the name of the country he leads.

Throughout all of this, the Trump Administration has basically sat back and let the Saudi government quite literally get away with cold-blooded murder. While there have been some bland statements of concern about what happened to Khashoggi, who in addition to being a journalist employed by an American newspaper is also an American Permanent Resident with children who are naturalized American citizens, it’s clear that the President and the White House are not interested in putting pressure on Riyadh to come clean about Khashoggi’s fate and even less interest in putting pressure on King Salman regard the fate of his son the Crown Prince. In no small part, of course, this is because M.B.S., as he is popularly known, has managed to ingratiate himself with both Trump and with Jared Kushner, with whom he apparently communicates on a regular basis. Additionally, the Trump Administration has already made clear that it is willing to look the other way while the Saudis commit nothing less than genocide in Yemen, so it’s not surprising that they’d be okay with the murder of a single journalist.

FILED UNDER: Donald Trump, Middle East, National Security, Politicians, US Politics, , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook


  1. OzarkHillbilly says:

    M.B.S., as he is popularly known, has managed to ingratiate himself with both Trump and with Jared Kushner,

    ‘Ingratiate’ is an interesting word to use for “bought and paid for”:

    He may not currently have any known business interests “in” Saudi Arabia per se, but it’s not for lack of trying, according to media reports. There is plenty of money flowing between Saudis and the Trump Organization and there also appears to be a link in how the foreign policy of the Trump Administration follows the needs of Kushner, who more than anyone else has cultivated Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman as a top foreign ally.

    And of course,

    The Saudi crown prince bragged to the United Arab Emirates Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed and others that he had Kushner “in his pocket,” an unnamed source who talks frequently to confidants of the Saudi and Emirati rulers told The Intercept.

  2. Kathy says:

    Some may be appalled at how easily a man can sell his soul.

    Others may admire what he’s being paid for it.

  3. Kathy says:

    Interesting article in Foreign policy, comparing MbS with Saddam Hussein.

    If it doesn’t let you read, try opening the link in an incognito window

  4. Jen says:

    Two Saudi sisters, living in Virginia, were found murdered last week after requesting political asylum in the US. This botched response to Khashoggi’s murder might have ramifications right here in the US.