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OH, COME ON! Mohammed bin Salman's security chief Saud al-Qahtani SKYPED IN to the attack on Jamal Khashoggi? Reuters reports,

According to one high-ranking Arab source with access to intelligence and links to members of Saudi Arabia's royal court, Qahtani was beamed into a room of the Saudi consulate via Skype.

He began to hurl insults at Khashoggi over the phone. According to the Arab and Turkish sources, Khashoggi answered Qahtani's insults with his own. But he was no match for the squad, which included top security and intelligence operatives, some with direct links to the royal court.

A Turkish intelligence source relayed that at one point Qahtani told his men to dispose of Khashoggi. "Bring me the head of the dog", the Turkish intelligence source says Qahtani instructed.

And then they took Khashoggi's clothes, pasted a fake beard on the body double, and sent him out the back door to wave at cameras all over Istanbul. Meanwhile the autopsy expert, who had packed his lucky bone saw and loaded up his dissection playlist for the trip from Saudi Arabia, got to work. Because Qahtani, MBS's top aide, had asked for Khashoggi's actual head. And pissing off MBS can be really bad for your health. Just ask the dozens of royal cousins who left their fingernails at the Ritz Carlton Riyadh while being convinced to turn assets over to the government. Or the women's rights activists rotting in jail. Or the former Lebanese prime minister, Saad Hariri, who pissed off MBS by failing to sufficiently stand up to Iranian-backed factions in his own country. MBS had him kidnapped and beaten until he agreed to resign on national television. Or ask the prince's own mother, Princess Fahda bint Falah Al Hathleen, who has been kept under house arrest to keep her from warning his father King Salman to rein in his ambitious heir before it's too late. NBC reports that the aging king has been prevented from seeing his wife for two years at least.


At one point during a meeting at the White House in September 2015, King Salman told then-President Barack Obama that his wife was in New York for medical treatment and that he hoped to visit her while in the U.S., officials said. The officials said Obama did not inform the king that his wife was not in New York, but the king's comment was viewed as further evidence of what U.S. officials already had gleaned from intelligence on the royal family.

In early 2016, U.S. officials picked up communications in which MBS was talking about his efforts to keep his mother from his father without the king knowing, according to current and former officials.

Look at this photo of MBS and his father offering condolences to Jamal Khashoggi's son that the Saudi Foreign Ministry just tweeted.

You might call him a monster, but Jared Kushner calls him a close friend. Because the White House Wunderkind's finger paint foreign policy of IRAN BAD, ISRAEL GOOD makes him an easy mark. So if MBS promises to fight Iran and support Israel, he gets a blank check from the White House. A check he's spending to start shit with regional rivals Yemen and Qatar. And the Turks, who are allied with the Qataris.

Which brings us back to Khashoggi. Why has the murder of one dissident journalist sparked international outcry when the slaughter of tens of thousands of Yemenis caused barely a ripple? Partly because Khashoggi wrote for the Washington Post, of course. But largely because the Turkish government has taken full advantage of the opportunity to kick their rival Saudis in the jimmies with another salacious leak, guaranteed to keep the story on the front page every day of the past three weeks.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been on the outs with the White House, his country's fragile economy battered further by Trump's sanctions. And now MBS has dropped a golden egg into his lap -- the chance to drive a wedge between the West and the wealthy Saudis, the chance to extort Saudi investment dollars in exchange for burying any recording of the murder, and the chance to deliver a potentially fatal blow to MBS if the Kingdom doesn't play ball.

What's Arabic for OWN GOAL? Asking for a 33-year-old Saudi despot.

Courthouse News Service interviewed University of Waterloo professor Bessma Momani, for a terrific article about the regional implications of the Saudi-Turkish struggle.

"Let me simplify it for you: The tapes will be released if the Saudis don't pay the right price." [...]

Turkish objectives are diverse: Momani noted that Erdogan's cronies are intertwined with the country's construction center, and its ailing economy could use a boost from lucrative contracts from Riyadh, which is losing international business support.

"Everybody else is pulling out," she said. "Nobody else wants to do this stuff for the Saudis any more. Saudis don't have the capacity to build. They don't have enough engineers. They don't have the type of contractors."

So, Bone Saw Week continues. Because long before we were at war with Eastasia, Eastasia was at war with itself.

[Reuters / NBC / Courthouse News Service]

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Good morning, America! Attorney General Bill Barr is doing a presser at 9:30 AM EDT about the Mueller report, which nobody will be able to see until around noon or after, once Congress gets the redacted report on CDs. Seeing as that is bullshit, there's no reason to watch this thing, as journalists won't be able to ask him questions about a document they haven't seen. So ... go back to bed, everyone!

Ugh, fine, we guess we will do this, and that is because we care, even though we are quite certain HGTV is doing some kind of very important "Property Brothers" marathon that adds much more of value to the national discourse, and also covers it up with shiplap accent walls. Does Bill Barr do cover-ups with shiplap? No, because he doesn't have the good taste for that.

Reportedly, we are going to hear from Barr why certain things were redacted, including why he thinks certain facts are subject to executive privilege, which is funny because he is not the president and therefore cannot invoke executive privilege. But oh whatever! Details! Robert Mueller won't be there and none of his team will be there, which tells you something about how they feel about this whole process. If they felt like this was on the up-and-up, you'd imagine they might show up to present a united front. As that is not happening, assume the entire thing is a bullshit act meant to help Donald Trump set the narrative for what will otherwise be a very bad day for him.

The New York Times reported last night that the White House has already been briefed on significant portions of the report, because Bill Barr is a rightwing scam artist piece of shit who gives the Trump White House reacharounds. The briefings have reportedly been very helpful for the White House in coming up with how to rebut today's report, which is funny because we thought Trump said this report was a full exoneration, NO COLLUSION, NO OBSTRUCTION. (Actually nope on both counts, since Mueller didn't decide the obstruction question, and even according to Barr's mash notes, he took a very limited view of the conspiracy question, focusing on the Russian government's hack and dump WikiLeaks operation.)

Anyway, assuming Trump is right about full exoneration, we guess Rudy Giuliani's rebuttal will state that Trump is guilty, full stop. Because that's what "rebuttal" means, correct?

Committee chairs in the House including Jerry Nadler, Adam Schiff and Maxine Waters have called upon Bill Barr to cancel today's briefing, as it is useless horseshit. Because Barr literally gives zero fucks about his reputation and apparently is OK with going down in history as a fecal stain on our institutions and the rule of law, the show will go on.

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Now What? Wonkagenda For Thurs., April 18, 2019

Bill Barr's book report, the NRA is doomed, and Johnny Cash will watch over the Capitol. Your morning news brief!

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Morning Wonketariat! Here's some of the things we may be talking about today.

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