As a new flurry of evidence from the Turkish government established direct ties between Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and those who allegedly carried out the gruesome murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, U.S. President Donald Trump continued “groveling” at the feet of the murderous kingdom Tuesday night by claiming that the Saudis have been deemed “guilty until proven innocent” just like newly confirmed Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who was credibly accused of sexual assault.
“If I were Brett Kavanaugh I’m not sure how I’d feel about joining the Saudi royal family on Trump’s list of the ‘wrongly accused.'”
—Tim Wu, Columbia University”I think we have to find out what happened first,” Trump told the Associated Press in an interview just hours after Al Jazeera reported more “shocking” details of Khashoggi’s torture and assassination inside Saudi Arabia’s Turkish embassy. “Here we go again with, you know, you’re guilty until proven innocent. I don’t like that. We just went through that with Justice Kavanaugh and he was innocent all the way as far as I’m concerned.”
Completely ignoring the rapidly growing body of evidence implicating the Saudis in Khashoggi’s murder, Trump went on to say that King Salaman “just sounded to me like he felt like he did not do it.”
“I spoke to the crown prince, so you have that. He said he and his father knew nothing about it. And that was very important,” Trump continued. “And I spoke to him with [Secretary of State] Mike Pompeo there. And the crown prince. I spoke to the king yesterday, the crown prince, today wanting to know what was going on, what was happening, and he said very strongly that he and his father knew nothing about it.”
Responding to Trump’s invocation of the “Kavanaugh defense” on behalf of the Saudi regime—which came shortly after the president dutifully echoed the kingdom’s denials on Twitter—Jeet Heer of the New Republic quipped that “Trump is right in thinking that Brett Kavanaugh and Mohammed bin Salman are likely equally innocent.”
Despite Trump’s best efforts to run interference for the Saudis, evidence directly implicating the kingdom’s leadership in the torture and killing of Khashoggi two weeks ago in Istanbul continued to emerge Tuesday night, when the New York Times “confirmed independently that at least nine of 15 suspects identified by Turkish authorities worked for the Saudi security services, military or other government ministries.”
“There is not a doubt in my mind that U.S. intelligence knows exactly what the Saudis did to Jamal Khashoggi. Trump is covering for MbS, lying consistently and repeatedly about his involvement.”
—Joe Cirincione, Ploughshares Fund
“One of the suspects identified by Turkey in the disappearance of the Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi was a frequent companion of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman—seen disembarking from airplanes with him in Paris and Madrid and photographed standing guard during his visits this year to Houston, Boston, and the United Nations,” the Times reported. “Three others are linked by witnesses and other records to the Saudi crown prince’s security detail.”
In its report, the Times published photographs of diplomat Maher Abdulaziz Mutreb and others allegedly involved in Khashoggi’s murder.
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MSNBC‘s Rachel Maddow featured the photos from the Times report in a segment Tuesday night:
“There is not a doubt in my mind that U.S. intelligence knows exactly what the Saudis did to Jamal Khashoggi,” Ploughshares Fund president Joe Cirincione wrote on Twitter in response to the Times report. “Trump is covering for MbS, lying consistently and repeatedly about his involvement. Pompeo’s smile-filled meetings are a disgrace.”