Washington Post: Trump is defending bin Salman’s 'lies'

By Nilay Kar Onum

ISTANBUL (AA) – The Trump administration is helping Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is “brazenly seeking to lie his way out of accountability” for the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, according to the Washington Post.

In an unsigned editorial posted late Saturday, the paper’s editorial board wrote: “On Thursday, a state prosecutor in Riyadh advanced an account of the killing blatantly at odds with established facts, excusing the crown prince from all blame.

“Rather than reject this contemptible cover-up, President Trump, who had pledged to ‘get to the bottom’ of the case, went along with it.”

The editorial said the U.S. Treasury Department “imposed sanctions on 17 mostly low-level suspects already implicated by the Saudis, while excusing both Mohammed bin Salman and top intelligence officials.”

“Now we learn that Mr. Trump backed the Saudi leader despite a conclusion by the CIA that the prince was, in fact, responsible for ordering Khashoggi’s assassination,” it added, referring to a leaked intelligence assessment reported last week by the Post.

The Post reported that intelligence officials have “high confidence” in their assessment and have briefed the president on their evidence, which includes an audio recording of the killing and phone calls by the leader of the “kill team” as well as the Saudi ambassador in Washington.

“Mr. Trump nevertheless has refused to accept Mohammed bin Salman’s responsibility, perhaps because that would mean acknowledging that the White House’s outsize bet on the 33-year-old prince as a strategic ally was badly mistaken.”

A number of legislators from both parties have spoken up in rejection of the Saudi cover-up and the administration’s response, the article said.

“Three Republican senators — Lindsay O. Graham (S.C.), Todd C. Young (Ind.) and Susan Collins (Maine) — have joined three Democrats, including Robert Menendez (N.J.), the ranking minority member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, to back legislation that would require the administration to sanction within 30 days ‘any official of the government of Saudi Arabia or member of the royal family’ tied to the Khashoggi murder by ‘credible evidence.’

“Given the CIA conclusion, that would cover Mohammed bin Salman. The bill would also suspend most U.S. arms sales and deliveries to Saudi Arabia until it ‘honored a complete cessation of hostilities in the Yemen war’ and stopped interfering with deliveries of humanitarian aid.”

The Post wrote that Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker is “giving Mr. Trump a chance to tell the truth about Mohammed bin Salman and adjust his policies accordingly, a correction that is essential to a rational and workable U.S. strategy in the Middle East.”

"If the White House instead continues to abet the crown prince in his lies," the Post said Congress must act “swiftly and decisively.”

Khashoggi, a Saudi journalist working for The Washington Post, was killed shortly after he entered the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul Oct. 2.

Saudi Arabia had offered shifting explanations for Khashoggi's disappearance before suggesting he was killed during a botched rendition operation by rogue agents.

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