President Donald Trump is continuing on with his tradition of suckering up to dictators this week. After reports circulated about the apparent death of prominent Arab journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the hands of the Saudi Arabian authorities, Trump spoke with Saudi Arabia’s King Salman via telephone — and went right along with his denials of involvement, parroting them to reporters.
He made a show of refusing to offer a final declaration of guilt — or a lack thereof — in the case, but he did suggest that maybe the murder was carried out by “rogue killers.” In other words, we’re expected to believe that a murder carried out inside the Saudi consulate in Turkey by individuals in possession of apparent Saudi diplomatic passports was the work of a dissident, secret faction and that’s that.
Trump told reporters early Monday outside the White House:
‘I just spoke to the King of Saudi Arabia, who denies any knowledge of what took place with regard to, as he said, his Saudi Arabian citizen — and he firmly denied that… The King told me that Turkey and Saudi Arabia are working hand in hand very closely on getting to the bottom of what happened, so we’ll see what happens.’
Turkish media, for the record, has claimed that there’s clear and convincing evidence of Khashoggi’s death at the hands of the Saudis — which Trump seemingly acknowledges, considering some of his remarks.
The whole conversation is reminiscent of the process the president has taken to get to his present position on Russia. First, to Trump, there was no reason to suspect Russia of election meddling at all, and then, maybe there was, but it was carried out by rogue actors inside the Kremlin — or something — with the president asserting that he believed President Vladimir Putin’s denial of the charges.
Monday, Trump reiterated to reporters:
‘The King firmly denied any knowledge of it. He didn’t really know — maybe — I don’t want to get into his mind — but it sounded to me like maybe these could have been rogue killers. Who knows? We’re going to try getting to the bottom of it very soon, but his was a flat denial.’
Again, he’s just parroting a dictator’s talking points here.
Saudi Arabian authorities have worked to hide their atrocities in recent years, carrying on, for instance, with an anti-corruption campaign that to many simply served as a pretext for the harassment of those who would dare oppose the throne.
Trump, though, has gone along with them big time in the past already. He signed an arms deal with the monarchy, for instance, in his first overseas trip as president. The deal had previously been stalled due to concerns the weapons would be used on civilians.
Trump has cited this deal in the public side of his deliberations over what to do about Khashoggi’s disappearance. During an appearance on 60 Minutes, he said that he would hesitate to impose any sanctions that would impact that deal — even if the Saudi government finds no issue with murdering a journalist.
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