Politics

Trump and Saudis conspire to cover up murder of Washington Post journalist

There are important reasons for the United States to protect the relationship with Saudi Arabia. But what’s showcased by Trump’s assistance in covering up the murder of Khashoggi is how deeply distorted US–foreign relations have become under Trump. Trump is not concerned about the relationship between the US and Saudi Arabia as nation states whose goals overlap and diverge over a period of decades. He views this as a personal relationship. It’s not the US and Saudi Arabia. It’s Trump and bin Salman. And Jamal Khashoggi … was a critic. For the Washington Post. That’s solidly in the “my friend the crown prince” vs. the “fake news.”

Trump can’t get outside of his personal, business relationship with a man he views as his partner in “winning.” And his reaction is to protect that relationship at all costs, even if that means that the nation states involved suffer irreparable harm.

To make the world safe for whatever Mohammed bin Salman wants to say, Trump has even cut off communications with Republican-led Senate committees and made it clear that door will stay shut until the Saudis have their alibi in hand.

“I can only surmise that probably the intel is not painting a pretty picture as it relates to Saudi Arabia,” [Republican Senator Bob Corker] said. Based on the earlier intelligence he had reviewed, he added, “everything points not to just Saudi Arabia, but to MBS,” referring to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. “This could not have happened without his approval.”

The crime could not have happened without bin Salman’s sanction, and the ongoing cover-up of the crime could not happen without Donald Trump’s blessing. The Saudis may be searching for every possible reason why bin Salman is not to blame for this. Trump may be putting up every roadblock to give bin Salman time to cook up an alibi that would withstand three episodes of Law & Order.

But, as the New York Times reports, the evidence is only growing that Mohammed bin Salman was directly involved in the murder of Khashoggi. The list of men who flew into Istanbul to torture and kill Khashoggi included at least one who was known to be a personal guard of bin Salman and others who had worked directly for the crown prince.

If, as the Turkish authorities say, these men were present at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul where Mr. Khashoggi disappeared on Oct. 2, they might provide a direct link between what happened and Prince Mohammed. That would undercut any suggestion that Mr. Khashoggi died in a rogue operation unsanctioned by the crown prince. Their connection to him could also make it more difficult for the White House and Congress to accept such an explanation.

Congress? Maybe. But Trump would have no such problem finding an excuse. Because his focus is in protecting exactly his connection to bin Salman. Other leaders around the world are trying to push the Saudis to give honest answers. Trump is trying to help them find excuses.

There’s no excuse for that.


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