On October 2, Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi was killed by Saudi operatives. In the weeks following, Mr. Trump refused to denounce the incident, and it was reported by The New York Times on November 16 that the CIA had confirmed that the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered Khashoggi’s murder.
On Saturday, it was reported that the CIA assessment confirms that Mohammed bin Salman sent at least 11 messages to his closest adviser who oversaw the team that killed journalist Jamal Khashoggi, in the hours before and after the journalist’s death in October.
According to The Wall Street Journal:
‘The Saudi leader also in August 2017 had told associates that if his efforts to persuade Mr. Khashoggi to return to Saudi Arabia weren’t successful, “we could possibly lure him outside Saudi Arabia and make arrangements,” according to the assessment, a communication that it states “seems to foreshadow the Saudi operation launched against Khashoggi.”’
Khashoggi had been a critic of the kingdom’s leadership and lived in Virginia while he wrote columns for The Washington Post. Khashoggi entered the Saudi consulate to in Istanbul where he sought papers needed to marry his Turkish fiancée, and was killed shortly after entering.
After the CIA had concluded that the Saudi crown prince had likely ordered the journalist’s killing, Mr. Trump and members of Congress were briefed with the information. However, Trump questioned the CIA’s information about the prince, saying:
‘Maybe he did; and maybe he didn’t.’
The WSJ‘s review of previously unreported excerpts state that the CIA has “medium-to-high confidence” that Prince Mohammed “personally targeted” Khashoggi and “probably ordered his death.” The documents state:
‘To be clear, we lack direct reporting of the Crown Prince issuing a kill order.’
The WSJ reported:
‘The electronic messages sent by Prince Mohammed were to Saud al-Qahtani, according to the CIA. Mr. Qahtani supervised the 15-man team that killed Mr. Khashoggi and, during the same period, was also in direct communication with the team’s leader in Istanbul, the assessment says.’
The excerpts are not clear as to whether the 2017 comments regarding luring Mr. Khashoggi to a third country cited in the assessment are from Prince Mohammed directly, or from someone else describing his remarks.
According to Saudi Arabia, Khashoggi was murdered in the consulate but has denied Prince Mohammed had any role and blamed the operation on rogue operatives. The Saudi Public Prosecutor’s office charged 11 Saudis in connection with Khashoggi’s death and said it would seek the death penalty in five cases although names have not been released.
The Trump Administration’s position on the matter continues to anger many in Congress. Although sanctions were slapped on 17 Saudis whom the U.S. Treasury Department linked to the killing, Trump said he intended to maintain strong relations with the crown prince because of Saudi Arabia’s opposition to Iran, its investments in the U.S. and its role in the oil market.
Senators Bob Corker (R-TN) and Bob Menendez (D-NJ)wrote a letter to Mr. Trump requesting that he address whether Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. They wrote:
‘In light of recent developments, we request that your determination specifically address whether Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman is responsible for Mr. Khashoggi’s murder.’
This letter signaled an investigation into the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act, which was signed into law during the Obama administration in 2012. According to the law, Mr. Trump, within 120 days, is required to:
‘determine whether a foreign person is responsible for an extrajudicial killing, torture, or other gross violation of internationally recognized human rights against an individual exercising freedom of expression.’
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