You’d hope that the U.S. government’s handling of the brutal murder of a journalist would be relatively straightforward, but President Donald Trump has adamantly refused to come down too hard on the Saudi Arabian government interests all signs point to as behind the death of Jamal Khashoggi.
In the midst of the tumult, The New York Times has shared that a key National Security Council staffer has resigned. Kirsten Fontenrose oversaw American policy towards the Persian Gulf region under Trump after having worked in the State Department since at least 2011.
She worked, more particularly, on the administration’s response to Khashoggi’s death.
The columnist for The Washington Post went into the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, to seek papers he needed for marriage, and he never came out. In response, Trump has held fast to the idea that economic ties with the Saudis are of the utmost importance to the point of refusing to condemn those believed to be behind the attack. Even as media reports indicate the CIA has concluded that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman himself ordered the killing, the president continues to insist that the jury is still out. At this point, he has consulted with CIA Director Gina Haspel and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo regarding the incident, but he has not ceded his previous position.
Still, the administration did impose a round of sanctions on a list of particular individuals associated with the operation, although considering the believed upper level Saudi government involvement, plenty of concerned interests want to see far more action — including, perhaps, Fontenrose. She advocated for the addition of a particular name to the sanctions list — MBS adviser Saud al-Qahtani, who worked on media relations for the Saudi royal family, and, more specifically, directed an online harassment campaign against pointed critics of the crown prince and associates.
That’s where the story yet again intersects with the Trumps. Trump son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner has been reported to have shared U.S. intel on Saudi government critics with the crown prince himself — and that relationship could be behind the president’s hesitation to condemn the murderers.
The Times reported that after Fontenrose returned to the United States from a Saudi trip covering the sanctions last week, she feuded with her bosses prior to leaving her post, but they conclude that the circumstances surrounding her departure are, overall, “murky.” The Washington Post adds a claim from administration officials that she had already been on administrative leave.
The departure is one of many for the Trump administration. For instance, National Security Council official Mira Ricardel got kicked out after getting into it with the First Lady. Melania Trump’s spokesperson issued a formal statement supporting her departure — and her time in the White House has come to a close, because that’s the way it works these days, apparently.
Perhaps most prominently, the day after voting in the midterm elections concluded, Trump pushed Attorney General Jeff Sessions out, again sparking concern that the Trumps are aiming to turn the federal government into their personal vassal.