Evidence is growing that the United States knew about the threat to Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi before he disappeared. Knew about his death and dismemberment almost immediately after he was murdered by Saudi Arabian intelligence. And that Donald Trump doesn’t care.
On Thursday, the Washington Post reported that Turkey has audio recordings of the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. Khashoggi has not been seen since he walked into the consulate on Oct. 2 to obtain documents needed to marry his Turkish fiancé. Saudi Arabian officials have repeatedly claimed that Khashoggi left shortly after entering, and that they have no knowledge of what happened to him. But a source who has heard the tape reports that it clearly records Khashoggi being detained, beaten, tortured, and murdered. Neither U.S. nor Turkish officials have confirmed the existence of the tape—doing so would mean confirming that they had spied on the Saudi consulate—but the reports of its contents match the assurance Turkey has demonstrated from the beginning in making statements that Khashoggi had been killed inside the building. There is also additional visual evidence of the assault and murder of the Saudi journalist.
If any of these recordings exist, they or at least the conclusions of those who heard them, were almost certainly shared with the United States in near real time, based on agreements between the intelligence services. CNN reports that they confirmed this information through a source who was not a Turkish official but someone within “western intelligence.” The certainty displayed by Turkish officials and the apparently clear nature of the evidence makes the pretense that Trump and others at the White House don’t know what happened into a transparent effort to protect Saudi Arabia and its dictatorial leader, crown prince Mohammed bin Salman.
In addition, U.S. intelligence appears to have known that Khashoggi was in danger well before he was detained and killed. U.S. intelligence intercepted Saudi communications discussing a plan to capture Khashoggi when he was in the United States. U.S. law requires that the subject of such a threat be warned, even if he is not a U.S. citizen. It does not appear that Khashoggi was provided any such warning.
Meanwhile, Trump has made it clear in no uncertain terms that protecting his friend bin Salman is his first, and in fact only, concern. Questioned about the disappearance and suspected murder of the journalist on Thursday, Trump stated that Khashoggi was “not even a U.S. citizen” and pointed out the $110 billion in U.S. arms being purchased by the Saudis. The message is clear—if you’re rich enough, you can literally get away with murder and no one, certainly not Donald Trump—will call you on it.