What Happened to Trump’s Khashoggi Report?
|CRIMSON TAZVINZWA|AIWA! NO!|In recent days, U.S. President Donald Trump again sought to undercut the assessment of his own intelligence community by saying that he expects a fuller report on whether Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, which is the conclusion of the CIA.
But no report has appeared. Instead, on Tuesday Trump issued a statement effectively repudiating the CIA’s assessment and letting Mohammed bin Salman off the hook, saying“we may never know all of the facts surrounding the murder.” The president, noting that the United States has “already sanctioned 17 Saudis known to have been involved in the murder of Mr. Khashoggi, and the disposal of his body,” also said: “Our intelligence agencies continue to assess all information, but it could very well be that the Crown Prince had knowledge of this tragic event – maybe he did and maybe he didn’t!”
The New York Times
Mohammed bin Salman is definitely bold. I can think of no one else in the ruling family who would have put in place the profound social, religious and economic reforms that he’s dared to do — and all at once. But I can also think of no one in that family who’d have undertaken the bullying foreign policy initiatives, domestic power plays and excessive personal buying sprees he’s dared to do, all at once. They are two halves of the same M.B.S. package. Our job: help curb his bad impulses and nurture his good ones.
Trump cited no new evidence. U.S. officials and congressional sources told Foreign Policy they were mystified by the president’s promises of an additional report, since they were not told of anything beyond the CIA’s firm assessment that Mohammed bin Salman was behind the intricate operation to lure Khashoggi into the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2 and have him killed.
On Saturday, responding to news reports that the CIA had concluded the crown prince was responsible for Khashoggi’s murder, Trump said: “We’ll be having a very full report over the next two days, probably Monday or Tuesday.” He called the news accounts “premature.” The newer report would include “who did it,” Trump said.
But on Tuesday, even as the president issued his statement, no report appeared to be forthcoming from the White House, State Department, or CIA. An official within the intelligence community added that there was no information on such a new report. The National Security Council declined to comment.
“We don’t know what the president is referring to,” said a senior aide to Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), the ranking member on the House Intelligence Committee. An aide to Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), the vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said, “We have no idea what they’re talking about.” She added that if such a report existed, the relevant intelligence committees would have expected a briefing on it.
As the senior Democratic members on their respective committees, Schiff and Warner were among those briefed on the CIA’s conclusions about Mohammed bin Salman’s alleged complicity last Thursday.
Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon, a Democratic member of the Intelligence Committee, called onCIA Director Gina Haspel and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats to “to come out and provide the American people and the Congress with a public assessment of who ordered the killing of Jamal Khashoggi.” But a spokesperson for Wyden said he was also unaware of any additional, more comprehensive report. “The only thing we’ve heard are the president’s comments,” he said.
Trump has clearly indicated that he wants to continue a relationship with Mohammed bin Salman, since under his de facto rule Saudi Arabia is playing a major role in U.S. policy in aligning against Iran, and especially because the crown prince has pledged to buy U.S. arms worth more than $100 billion of dollars.
In his statement Tuesday, Trump began by saying, “The world is a very dangerous place!” He pointed the finger at Iran, saying it “is responsible for a bloody proxy war against Saudi Arabia in Yemen, trying to destabilize Iraq’s fragile attempt at democracy, supporting the terror group Hezbollah in Lebanon, propping up dictator Bashar Assad in Syria (who has killed millions of his own citizens), and much more.” He then said “Saudi Arabia would gladly withdraw from Yemen if the Iranians would agree to leave. They would immediately provide desperately needed humanitarian assistance. Additionally, Saudi Arabia has agreed to spend billions of dollars in leading the fight against Radical Islamic Terrorism.”