If new acting Director of National Intelligence and staunch Trump loyalist Richard Grenell thought he could float through his job responsibilities without drawing much attention, he should think again. Now, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) has sent Grenell a letter demanding that he produce some unclassified version of a report about the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who — according to reports — was executed on the orders of the Saudi crown prince. President Donald Trump has consistently downplayed the legitimacy of reports implicating Saudi leaders, but the the report that Schiff, citing the latest National Defense Authorization Act, is demanding could help put that capitulation to rest.
‘The Committee shares ODNI’s concerns regarding the protection of sensitive Intelligence Community sources and methods. However, after reviewing the classified annex, the Committee believes that the annex could be declassified with appropriate redactions that should not alter or obscure in any way the Intelligence Community’s determinations, presentation of evidence, or identification of relevant persons, as required by law. In doing so, ODNI would fulfill Congress’ requirement and intent that your office submit an unclassified report on the killing of Mr. Khashoggi.’
If Grenell fails to comply with this demand — or perhaps produces a report that redacts out the majority of the actually significant information — he’d get further confirmed as a Trump crony installed because of his loyalty to the president. Past Trump appointees, like Attorney General Bill Barr, have already wound themselves up to keep relevant information from the public for as long as possible in situations like the Russia investigation. In this case, Grenell doesn’t actually have any relevant intelligence community experience like one might expect from the director of the nation’s agencies — but Trump does say that a permanent and presumably at least moderately more qualified nominee will be coming soon.
In the Saudi case, Trump has consistently resorted to praising the U.S. trade relationship with the Saudis instead of even attempting any kind of condemnation for their execution of a dissident journalist. Not long at all after Khashoggi’s murder, Trump glibly tweeted:
‘Saudi Arabia has now agreed to spend the necessary money needed to help rebuild Syria, instead of the United States. See? Isn’t it nice when immensely wealthy countries help rebuild their neighbors rather than a Great Country, the U.S., that is 5000 miles away. Thanks to Saudi A!’
Saudi Arabia has now agreed to spend the necessary money needed to help rebuild Syria, instead of the United States. See? Isn’t it nice when immensely wealthy countries help rebuild their neighbors rather than a Great Country, the U.S., that is 5000 miles away. Thanks to Saudi A!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 24, 2018
When later on, a Saudi national carried out a shooting attack at a Florida military base, Trump resorted not to comforting the families of those affected but to jumping in as a mouthpiece for the Saudi government. He parroted the Saudi propaganda line:
‘The King said that the Saudi people are greatly angered by the barbaric actions of the shooter, and that this person in no way shape or form represents the feelings of the Saudi people who love the American people.’
….The King said that the Saudi people are greatly angered by the barbaric actions of the shooter, and that this person in no way shape or form represents the feelings of the Saudi people who love the American people.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 6, 2019
The release of a report about the Khashoggi murder won’t end Trump’s cozying up with foreign dictators, and the list goes on from the Saudis — at one point, he said he “fell in love” with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un.
But the report will help enact some public accountability.