Turns out, putting a 37-year-old real estate developer in charge of US foreign policy might have been a stretch. Go know! Maybe you really do need something else on your CV besides Vanky's Babydaddy and Friend of Netanyahu! In fairness, though, how was Jared Kushner supposed to know that his Saudi BFF Mohammad bin Salman would murder people who had met actual Americans? He was supposed to confine himself to murdering nameless brown Muslim people, and in his own back yard! What a headache, right?

The Trump administration is trying desperately to save the US relationship with Saudi Arabia, which hasn't yet delivered on its promise to buy $110 billion of big, beautiful American weapons. And they're still harassing the Qataris. Oh, and they only sorta delivered on that promise to play nice with Israel. But those things could totally still happen, so even though the Saudis brazenly assassinated dissident reporter Jamal Khashoggi at their nation's consulate in Istanbul last week, Trumpland would like very much to find an innocent explanation for his death. And it's ... a stretch!

Last night, MBS -- Saudi Arabia's crown prince who has bragged about having Jared Kushner "in his pocket" -- spoke to Kushner, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and NSA John Bolton to reassure them that the 15 guys who flew into Turkey carrying a bone saw had nothing whatsoever to do with Khashoggi's disappearance. It's just a coincidence that the Saudi government dispatched an autopsy expert at the same time the reporter, who had been living in exile in Virginia, was scheduled to pick up his paperwork at the Turkish consulate.

Was the US government obliged to warn Khashoggi that he was in danger when they picked up information that the Saudis were trying to lure him back to Saudi Arabia? State Department spokesman Robert Palladino says no, and goes so far as to deny the Washington Post story that our intelligence agencies had knowledge of Saudi intentions to harm Khashoggi. But, the Post reports,

It was not clear to officials with knowledge of the intelligence whether the Saudis discussed harming Khashoggi as part of the plan to detain him in Saudi Arabia.

But the intelligence had been disseminated throughout the U.S. government and was contained in reports that are routinely available to people working on U.S. policy toward Saudi Arabia or related issues, one U.S. official said.

Maybe they just wanted to talk to him and convince him to come home to KSA. Hence the bone saw. And the coroner.

In the Senate, Bob Corker and Lindsey Graham are doing their best Man of Integrity impressions. Every member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee except Rand Paul signed a letter to the president requesting that he investigate Khashoggi's disappearance under the Magnitsky Act 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." But they don't expect a response for 120 days, by which time Corker will be long gone and Lindsey Graham will have reverted to his natural slime mold form. (Also, WTF is wrong with Rand Paul?)

As usual, Trump is saying the quiet part out loud. While admitting that "it's looking a little bit like" the Saudis really did murder Khashoggi on foreign soil for criticizing MBS, the president downplays the idea of sanctioning members of the Saudi Royal family for putting out a hit on a journalist.

But later Trump told the Fox brain trust that he didn't want to jeopardize American defense spending with sanctions, because "Frankly I think that would be a very, very tough pill to swallow for our country."

And speaking of unimpeachable integrity, guess who's taking a junket to visit Saudi Arabia next week?

Saudi Arabia's muscle will be on display next week, when American technology and financial titans gather at the investor conference in Riyadh that the crown prince will attend. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin will represent the Trump administration at the meeting, which participants have called "Davos in the Desert" and is held at the same Ritz-Carlton hotel where Prince Mohammed jailed dozens of wealthy Saudis in what he said was an anticorruption campaign.

It's fine that America's Treasury Secretary is visiting the Saudi Torture Hotel where Mohammad bin Salman locked up his relatives for a bit of "persuasion" until they saw the wisdom of handing their assets over to the monarchy. They probably cleaned up all the blood and fingernails months ago. And, yeah, they're murderous assassins using our bombs to slaughter starving civilians in Yemen. But, you know how it is ... we gotta make that money!


[WaPo / NYT / CNN]

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Liz Dye

Liz Dye lives in Baltimore with her wonderful husband and a houseful of teenagers. When she isn't being mad about a thing on the internet, she's hiding in plain sight in the carpool line. She's the one wearing yoga pants glaring at her phone.


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