As if the fake “president” didn’t have enough humiliations to deal with this morning, Time Magazine has delivered a crushing blow to his ego, announcing Jamal Khashoggi and other journalists as their “Person of the Year.”
Time magazine has announced its 2018 Person of the Year is “The Guardians,” four individuals and one group — all journalists — who this year helped expose “the manipulation and the abuse of truth” around the world.
They are the journalist Jamal Khashoggi, the Washington Post contributing columnist who was killed inside Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul in October; the staff of the Capital Gazette newspaper in Maryland; journalist Maria Ressa, the CEO of the Rappler news website, who has been made a legal target in the Philippines; and journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, who have been jailed in Myanmar for nearly a year for their work exposing the mass killing of Rohingya Muslims.
“As we looked at the choices, it became clear that the manipulation and the abuse of truth is really the common thread in so many of this year’s major stories, from Russia to Riyadh to Silicon Valley,” Time magazine editor Edward Felsenthal said on the “Today” show Tuesday morning, where the announcement was made.
“The manipulation and abuse of truth” is a pretty clear reference to Trump’s governing style.
Here’s Time’s cover story: The Guardians and the War on Truth.
The stout man with the gray goatee and the gentle demeanor dared to disagree with his country’s government. He told the world the truth about its brutality toward those who would speak out. And he was murdered for it.
Every detail of Jamal Khashoggi’s killing made it a sensation: the time stamp on the surveillance video that captured the Saudi journalist entering his country’s Istanbul consulate on Oct. 2; the taxiway images of the private jets bearing his assassins; the bone saw; the reports of his final words, “I can’t breathe,” recorded on audio as the life was choked from him.
But the crime would not have remained atop the world news for two months if not for the epic themes that Khashoggi himself was ever alert to, and spent his life placing before the public. His death laid bare the true nature of a smiling prince, the utter absence of morality in the Saudi-U.S. alliance and—in the cascade of news feeds and alerts, posts and shares and links—the centrality of the question Khashoggi was killed over: Whom do you trust to tell the story?
Khashoggi put his faith in bearing witness. He put it in the field reporting he had done since youth, in the newspaper editorship he was forced out of and in the columns he wrote from lonely exile. “Must we choose,” he asked in the Washington Post in May, “between movie theaters and our rights as citizens to speak out, whether in support of or critical of our government’s actions?” Khashoggi had fled his homeland last year even though he actually supported much of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s agenda in Saudi Arabia. What irked the kingdom and marked the journalist for death was Khashoggi’s insistence on coming to that conclusion on his own, tempering it with troubling facts and trusting the public to think for itself.
Such independence is no small thing. It marks the distinction between tyranny and democracy. And in a world where budding authoritarians have advanced by blurring the difference, there was a clarity in the spectacle of a tyrant’s fury visited upon a man armed only with a pen. Because the strongmen of the world only look strong. All despots live in fear of their people. To see genuine strength, look to the spaces where individuals dare to describe what’s going on in front of them.
Trump and his gullible son-in-law Jared Kushner won’t be happy about this. Plus, yesterday CNN published quotes from the transcript of the recording of the Kashoggi murder: ‘I can’t breathe.’ Jamal Khashoggi’s last words disclosed in transcript, source says.
“I can’t breathe.” These were the final words uttered by Jamal Khashoggi after he was set upon by a Saudi hit squad at the country’s consulate in Istanbul, according to a source briefed on the investigation into the killing of the Washington Post columnist.
The source, who has read a translated transcript of an audio recording of Khashoggi’s painful last moments, said it was clear that the killing on October 2 was no botched rendition attempt, but the execution of a premeditated plan to murder the journalist.
During the course of the gruesome scene, the source describes Khashoggi struggling against a group of people determined to kill him.
“I can’t breathe,” Khashoggi says.
“I can’t breathe.”
“I can’t breathe.”
The transcript notes the sounds of Khashoggi’s body being dismembered by a saw, as the alleged perpetrators are advised to listen to music to block out the sound.
And, according to the source, the transcript suggests that a series of phone calls are made. Turkish officials believe the calls were placed to senior figures in Riyadh, briefing them on progress.
In other humiliations, the fake “president” decided to humiliate Chief of Staff John Kelly by announcing his firing without any warning, and then the fake “president” was in turn humiliated by his choice to replace Kelly. Gabriel Sherman at Vanity Fair:
On Friday night, members of Donald Trump’s West Wing gathered for drinks at the Trump International Hotel following a holiday dinner at the White House. As they mingled in the lobby, Bill Shine, Stephen Miller, Kellyanne Conway, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, and others grappled with the latest West Wing upheaval: Trump had changed the plan and fired Chief of Staff John Kellyearlier that afternoon. “It got back to Trump that Kelly was bad-mouthing him and Trump had decided he’d had enough. His attitude was, ‘fuck him,’” an attendee told me.
Kelly’s defenestration surprised few people—Trump had wanted to fire him for months—but the lingering problem had been finding a replacement whom Trump felt comfortable with (and who wanted the job). “The president really wanted someone he knows. He didn’t want to gamble,” a former West Wing official said. After weeks of lobbying by Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, Trump had been convinced that Mike Pence’s 36-year-old chief of staff, Nick Ayers, was the best candidate. On Friday afternoon, Trump met with Ayers, Pence, and Kelly and finalized the transition, a source briefed on the meeting said. A press release announcing Ayers’s hiring was reportedly drafted and ready to go for when Trump planned to announce Kelly’s departure on Monday.
But Trump’s frustration with Kelly boiled over after Kelly pressed him to name his deputy Zachary Fuentes interim chief of staff. “Trump didn’t like how Kelly was trying to dictate the terms of his departure,” a Republican briefed on the discussions told me. Trump blew up the carefully orchestrated announcement and told reporters on Saturday as he walked to Marine One that Kelly would be leaving by the end of the year. “John wanted to announce his own departure. This was a humiliation,” a former West Wing official said.
Trump’s impulsive announcement quickly became an even bigger problem when it turned out that Kelly’s replacement was not sewn up; Ayers surprised Trump later that day by insisting that he only wanted the job short term. “Trump was pissed, he was caught off guard,” a former West Wing official briefed on the talks said.
And to make sure the humiliation of the fake “president” was complete, Ayers announced his departure on Twitter.
Now Trump is left with no one to humiliate in the formerly prestigious Chief of Staff job. The Washington Post: ‘There was no Plan B’: Trump scrambles to find chief of staff after top candidate turns him down.
After announcing the exit of his chief of staff, John F. Kelly, and being turned down by his pick to replace him, Nick Ayers, Trump found himself Monday in an unexpected predicament — scrambling to recruit someone to help run the executive branch of the federal government and guide the administration through the political tumult and possible legal peril ahead.
In any White House, the chief of staff is arguably the most punishing position. But in this White House — a den of disorder ruled by an impulsive president — it has proved to be an especially thankless job. The two people to hold the job were left with their reputations diminished after failing to constrain the president, who often prefers to function as his own chief of staff.
Three members of Trump’s Cabinet who have been discussed inside the West Wing as possible chiefs of staff — Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney and U.S. Trade Representative Robert E. Lighthizer — each signaled Monday that they were not interested in the position.
Considerable buzz has centered on two other contenders. Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) noted his interest in the job by issuing a statement saying that “serving as Chief of Staff would be an incredible honor.”
“It is not something I have been campaigning for,” Meadows told reporters Monday on Capitol Hill, adding that his phone “blew up” after the Ayers news broke. “The president has a good list of candidates. I’m honored to be one of those.”
And acting attorney general Matthew G. Whitaker, who traveled with Trump to Kansas City, Mo., last week , is seen by the president and his allies as a loyalist.
But Trump’s advisers and aides cautioned that there was not yet a front-runner.
Although aides said the president is committed to finding a replacement for Kelly before the Christmas holiday, they said he has been vacillating — casting about in all corners for potential picks and frustrated by news coverage depicting his White House as a place where talented people do not want to work.
Why would anyone want to work for Trump? I guess it will have to be someone whose reputation is already in tatters. I can’t imagine anyone who has hopes for a future career being interested. That description could apply to Whitaker, but how could he get a security clearance when he’s associated with a company that is under investigation for fraud?
Of course Trump is claiming he has multiple applicants for the job.
That’s it for me today. What stories are you following?
California is burning and we have no national leadership. The current death toll from the Camp Fire in Northern California stands at 71, with more than 1,000 missing. Trump is going to California, not to help or comfort, but to educate politicians and firefighters about what they did and are doing wrong. Politico:
Trump said he will be meeting Saturday with Gov. Jerry Brown, Gov.-elect Gavin Newsom and emergency workers across the state.
“I want to be with the firefighters and the FEMA first responders,” Trump said, anticipating that he would likely be returning to the White House at 4 a.m. Sunday morning, “or something like that.”
The president also hinted at some potentially confrontational discussions he might engage in Saturday with California’s elected leaders, including on the state’s forest management efforts.
“I’ve been saying that for a long time this could have been a lot different situation, but the one thing is that everybody now knows that this is what we have to be doing, and there’s no question about it,” Trump said. “It should have been done many years ago, but i think everybody’s on the right side. It’s a big issue.”
Yesterday Trump explained his theory to Fox News’ Chris Wallace.
So is Trump bringing a rake with him?
Read About the Wildfires
PARADISE, Calif., Nov 17 (Reuters) – Forensic recovery teams searched for more victims in the charred wreckage of the northern California town of Paradise on Saturday as the number of people listed as missing in the state’s deadliest wildfire topped 1,000.
Remains of at least 71 people have been recovered in and around the small Sierra foothills town 175 miles (280 km) north of San Francisco. It was home to nearly 27,000 residents before it was largely incinerated by the blaze on the night of Nov. 8.
The disaster already ranks among the deadliest U.S. wildfires since the turn of the last century. Eighty-seven people perished in the Big Burn firestorm that swept the Northern Rockies in August of 1910. Minnesota’s Cloquet Fire in October of 1918 killed 450 people.
U.S. President Donald Trump, who has blamed the recent spate of fires on forest mismanagement, was due to visit the fire zones on Saturday to meet displaced residents. Governor Jerry Brown and Governor-elect Gavin Newsom planned to join Trump on his tour.
Authorities attribute the high death toll from the blaze – dubbed “Camp Fire” – partly to the speed with which flames raced through the town with little advance warning, driven by howling winds and fueled by drought-desiccated scrub and trees.
More than a week later, firefighters have managed to carve containment lines around 45 percent of the blaze’s perimeter. The fire covered 142,000 acres (57,000 hectares), fire officials said.
Besides the toll on human life, property losses from the blaze make it the most destructive in California history, posing the additional challenge of providing long-term shelter for many thousands of displaced residents.
The BBC has a timeline of the destruction of Paradise, CA: California wildfires: The day Paradise burned down. Here’s the introduction:
“Heavenly father, please help us.”
Sitting in the back seat of the car her husband was driving, Brynn Parrott Chatfield’s entire field of vision was filled with flames as she prayed.
Only the thin strip of road in front of them remained unburned.
“Please, help us to be safe.”
A wave of embers rose up from the surface of the road and struck their front windscreen. Brynn’s husband Jeremy drove calmly on down the middle of the road; no-one would be coming towards them into the fire.
“I’m thankful for Jeremy and his willingness to be brave…”
By now, no road was visible, and only a dense orange cloud could be seen in front of the car. Then suddenly, it cleared, and the fires seemed to scatter.
Clear skies opened up, the last embers bounced off the windscreen and the fire was finally behind them.
As a helicopter flew overhead, carrying water to try and douse the flames, Jeremy and Brynn knew they had made it out alive.
Soon after, almost nothing would remain of their hometown, Paradise, and the fire they fled in north-east California would become the deadliest and most destructive in the state’s history.
This is the story of how the fire spread.
More reads on the California disaster:
The New York Times: Air Quality in California: Devastating Fires Lead to a New Danger.
The Los Angeles Times: California fire: If you stay, you’re dead. How a Paradise nursing home evacuated.
Trump Is Fueling White Supremacist Extremism
David Neiwert at The Washington Post: Right-wing extremists are already threatening violence over a Democratic House. The introduction:
Seeking a more lenient sentence for Patrick Eugene Stein’s plot to murder hundreds of Somali immigrants in a small Kansas town, Stein’s attorneys turned to a novel strategy: They blamed the inspiration for his actions on Donald Trump.
“The court cannot ignore the circumstances of one of the most rhetorically mold-breaking, violent, awful, hateful and contentious presidential elections in modern history, driven in large measure by the rhetorical China shop bull who is now our president,” the lawyers wrote.
Stein and his two cohorts planned their attack to take place the day after the November 2016 election. Anticipating a Hillary Clinton victory, the three Kansans wanted to make a violent first strike against her presidency by setting off a set of Timothy McVeigh-style truck bombs at a Muslim immigrant community in Garden City, then gunning down survivors as they fled.
The plot had been exposed, and the men arrested, a few weeks before they intended to carry it out. It took place amid a national environment in which far-right militiamen had been vowing a violent resistance to a potential Clinton administration. That resistance was, at least temporarily, mooted by Trump’s victory.
But those same rumblings can now be heard from the very same far-right factions, likewise threatening violence, in response to this month’s takeover of the House of Representatives by Democrats. There is legitimate reason for concern that right-wing terrorist violence will continue and perhaps increase — and that extremists could soon begin targeting politicians in office, especially if Trump singles them out for scorn.
Read the Rest at the WaPo. Neiwert is the author of Alt-America: The Rise of the Radical Right in the Age of Trump.
Lucian K. Truscott IV at Raw Story: Donald Trump isn’t our president — he is the Jefferson Davis of a new red state confederacy in a slow-motion civil war.
In 1861, they were cadets from the Citadel Military Academy in South Carolina. On January 9, of that year, they were manning an artillery battery on Morris Island, an uninhabited island in Charleston Harbor when they fired on the United States steamship Star of the West, which was attempting to resupply the American garrison at Fort Sumter. The shots they fired that day, along with the bombardment of the fort by the Confederate States Army beginning on April 12 of that year, are generally considered by historians to be the first shots fired in what became the American Civil War.
In 2017, they were members of the so-called “alt-right” — white supremacists, neo-nazis, neo-confederates, white nationalists, and neo-fascists who were in Charlottesville for the so-called “Unite the Right” rally. On the night of August 11, 2017, as many as 200 of them marched carrying burning torches through the campus of the University of Virginia chanting white supremacist slogans such as “blood and soil” and “Jews will not replace us.” When they reached the statue of Thomas Jefferson, founder of the University of Virginia, they clashed with a group of students who had surrounded the statue. The alt-right demonstrators swung and threw their torches and used pepper spray against the counter-protestors, injuring several.
The next day, the alt-right demonstrators marched through Charlottesville carrying Confederate and Nazi flags chanting “white lives matter,” “Jewish media is going down,” and “make America great again.” Many demonstrators were armed, some with semi-automatic assault-style rifles. They clashed again with counter-protestors, and at 1:45 p.m., a white supremacist demonstrator identified as James Alex Fields Jr. drove his 2010 Dodge Challenger into a crowd of counter-protestors, injuring 19 and killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer.
She was not the first to die in the new civil war. Already dead were black churchgoers in Charleston, South Carolina; a native of India in Olathe, Kansas; an Army lieutenant in College Park, Maryland; and many others.
But the death of Heather Heyer would become a focus of the violence and killing in the new civil war, because President Trump would put it there.
More at Raw Story (originally pubABlished at Salon).
More to Explore:
ABC Action News Tampa: 39 suspected gang members charged in major drug, gun trafficking investigation in Pasco.
Jackson Free Press: Hyde-Smith Accepts $2,700 Donation from Notorious White Supremacist.
Trump and the Saudi Crown Prince
Yesterday someone leaked the news that CIA has concluded that MBS ordered the murder of Washington Post Journalist Jamal Khashoggi last month in Turkey. The New York Times reports:
The Central Intelligence Agency has concluded that the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, ordered the killing of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi, according to American officials.
The C.I.A. made the assessment based on the crown prince’s control of Saudi Arabia, which is such that the killing would not have taken place without his approval, and has buttressed its conclusion with two sets of crucial communications: intercepts of the crown prince’s calls in the days before the killing, and calls by the kill team to a senior aide to the crown prince.
The C.I.A. has believed for weeks that Prince Mohammed was culpable in Mr. Khashoggi’s killing but had been hesitant to definitively conclude that he directly ordered it. The agency has passed that assessment on to lawmakers and Trump administration officials.
The change in C.I.A. thinking came as new information emerged, officials said. The evidence included an intercept showing a member of the kill team calling an aide to Prince Mohammed and saying “tell your boss” that the mission was accomplished. Officials cautioned, however, that the new information is not direct evidence linking Prince Mohammed to the assassination, which was carried out in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul.
Undoubtedly the leak was motivated by Trump’s defense of MBS and his suggestion that another long-time U.S. resident Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen should be handed over to Turkey most likely to be tortured and killed.
In the unending swirl of shocking statements and decisions by the Trump administration, the latest scoop by NBC News could easily get lost. But it is nonetheless jaw dropping to hear reports that the administration may be thinking about surrendering to Turkish demands to extradite a long-time U.S. resident for the sake of placating Turkey and protecting Saudi Arabia in the wake of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s brutal murder.
According to four people interviewed by NBC, the White House has instructed the Justice Department, the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security to find a way to remove Fethullah Gulen, a former ally-turned-foe of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Erdogan claims Gulen was the mastermind behind a failed coupagainst him in 2016. The elderly Gulen has lived in rural Pennsylvania for close to 20 years. He is a green card holder, or permanent resident of the U.S., and he adamantly denies Turkey’s accusations. But Trump presumably hopes that if he turns Gulen over to Turkey, Erdogan will return the favor by easing his campaign against Saudi Arabia, an important American ally that has been under intense scrutiny following the Khashoggi killing.
U.S. authorities have already reviewed Turkey’s two-year-old extradition request and found it without merit. But Trump, in an effort to help Saudi Arabia diffuse the Khashoggi crisis, is weighing whether or not to both sacrifice a man and make a mockery of the extradition system.
More Stories to Check Out
The Washington Post: Trump says he’ll speak with CIA about Khashoggi killing.
What else is happening? Please post your thoughts and links on any topic in the comment thread.
Good Afternoon Sky Dancers!
I am moving slowly today. Yesterday was both my Daddy’s birthday and the anniversary of his death and I still miss him very much. I’m reminded these days of him growing up in Oklahoma during the dust bowl and helping his various aunts and uncles work their farms. He had 7 of them with farms around Oklahoma and only 1 uncle lost theirs and headed to California. I am reminded of farm failures as I read the news about the impact of the newly installed tariffs.
Dad would tell me stories about the old plow horse he’d ride daily that knew the way to the place to feed his older cousins and the hands working the fields. The farm had no electricity or hot water and he had to take a bath on the porch, He also talked about the Cherokee man who let my Grandad chop wood on his land so they could keep the family warm during the winter. His one Christmas gift was a pocket knife because even with Grandad’s job with the railroad, they were poor. My favorite stories were how his mother always fed the men that would come to the back door from jumping off the trains even if all she could offer was a mayonnaise sandwich.
Today, I drive some of my neighbors crazy by letting scrappers use my hose for water and offering food. They live in the abandoned navy base and most scrap metal they can sell for cash for the heroin or the meth that they crave. They jump off the rail road tracks by the base and many do eventually overdose. You can tell the EMS people pretty much make lots of calls for overdoses these days. They nearly mistake everything for drugs. There are hundreds around here and the level of homelessness is overwhelming. They are a sharp contrast to the wandering burbie tourists.
I also spent the week trying to visualize a huge, strong bubble around the Panama City House of some who who left her cat there. I kept spending sleepless nights over some one else’s cat I’ve never met. I can’t imagine leaving any of my pets to the mercy of a hurricane. I know the woman in passing and do not want to even see her face again. Oddly, enough her house appears to be the only one left intact in about a six block radius and even her RV is still in the driveway with out as much of a dent in it. The entire place is surrounded by shattered wood and cement but there’s the house in the middle of a huge debris field. Some times nature can do the most unbelievable things. I just hope the cat still has food and water and is safe. But, I worry.
In some ways, life goes on with hurricanes and lives being lives. I try to do the things I admired about my Granddad and Nana because Dad’s stories inspired me to be like the parents he loved.
Then, I turn on the news and realize we do not live in the country my father wanted for his girls or I want for mine. I see all these raging white faces with agendas that seem so far away from my deeply christian Nana. So many people are being left behind like that little cat by the very people who are responsible for her well-being and like the scrappers sleeping at the base. They are more human than a fertilized egg. My country has become a daily disappointment. Why are we like this?
Sarah Stillman–writing for The New Yorker–introduces us to a five year old girl “Who Was Detained at the Border and Persuaded to Sign Away Her Rights”. How is this even possible in a supposedly civilized and advanced country?
Helen—a smart, cheerful five-year-old girl—is an asylum seeker from Honduras. This summer, when a social worker asked her to identify her strengths, Helen shared her pride in “her ability to learn fast and express her feelings and concerns.” She also recounted her favorite activities (“playing with her dolls”), her usual bedtime (“8 p.m.”), and her professional aspirations (“to be a veterinarian”).
In July, Helen fled Honduras with her grandmother, Noehmi, and several other relatives; gangs had threatened Noehmi’s teen-age son, Christian, and the family no longer felt safe. Helen’s mother, Jeny, had migrated to Texas four years earlier, and Noehmi planned to seek legal refuge there. With Noehmi’s help, Helen travelled thousands of miles, sometimes on foot, and frequently fell behind the group. While crossing the Rio Grande in the journey’s final stretch, Helen slipped from their raft and risked drowning. Her grandmother grabbed her hand and cried, “Hang on, Helen!” When the family reached the scrubland of southern Texas, U.S. Border Patrol agents apprehended them and moved them through a series of detention centers. A month earlier, the Trump Administration had announced, amid public outcry over its systemic separation of migrant families at the border, that it would halt the practice. But, at a packed processing hub, Christian was taken from Noehmi and placed in a cage with toddlers. Noehmi remained in a cold holding cell, clutching Helen. Soon, she recalled, a plainclothes official arrived and informed her that she and Helen would be separated. “No!” Noehmi cried. “The girl is under my care! Please!”
Noehmi said that the official told her, “Don’t make things too difficult,” and pulled Helen from her arms. “The girl will stay here,” he said, “and you’ll be deported.” Helen cried as he escorted her from the room and out of sight. Noehmi remembers the authorities explaining that Helen’s mother would be able to retrieve her, soon, from wherever they were taking her.
Later that day, Noehmi and Christian were reunited. The adults in the family were fitted with electronic ankle bracelets and all were released, pending court dates. They left the detention center and rushed to Jeny’s house, in McAllen, hoping to find Helen there. When they didn’t, Noehmi began to shake, struggling to explain the situation. “Immigration took your daughter,” she told Jeny.
“But where did they take her?” Jeny asked.
“I don’t know,” Noehmi replied.
The next day, authorities—likely from the Office of Refugee Resettlement (O.R.R.)—called to say that they were holding Helen at a shelter near Houston; according to Noehmi, they wouldn’t say exactly where. Noehmi and Jeny panicked. Unable to breathe amid her distress, Noehmi checked herself into a local hospital, where doctors gave her medication to calm her down. “I thought we would never see her again,” Noehmi said. She couldn’t square her family’s fate with the TV news, which insisted that the government had stopped separating migrant families.
Read more of Helen’s story at the link. Both her mother and grandmother have been searching for her.
We not only abandoned children of asylum seekers like Helen and asylum seekers themselves. We have abandoned people with greencards that work and live in the USA. The case of WAPO journalist Jamal Khashoggi and his horrendous death in a Saudi consulate in Turkey still horrifies me.
The Turkish government has told U.S. officials that it has audio and video recordings that prove Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi was killed inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul this month, according to U.S. and Turkish officials.
The recordings show that a Saudi security team detained Khashoggi in the consulate after he walked in Oct. 2 to obtain an official document before his upcoming wedding, then killed him and dismembered his body, the officials said.
The audio recording in particular provides some of the most persuasive and gruesome evidence that the Saudi team is responsible for Khashoggi’s death, the officials said.
“The voice recording from inside the embassy lays out what happened to Jamal after he entered,” said one person with knowledge of the recording who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss highly sensitive intelligence.
It has to be all about the money. The Trump family crime syndicate is in deep with the Saudis which is why all the outrage is outside of the white house and not in.
A foreign government — an American ally, no less — can’t just murder a US resident with impunity while he’s on the soil of a NATO member state because they didn’t like his newspaper columns.
And yet that seems to be exactly what President Donald Trump wants to let Saudi officials do, explaining to reporters on Thursday that he does not want to respond to the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi because “I don’t like stopping massive amounts of money coming into our country” and “I don’t like stopping an investment of $110 billion in the United States.”
After Trump told reporters he didn’t want to lose the billions the Saudis spend on American goods, he suggested that perhaps because Khashoggi was murdered in Turkey, and because he is a permanent resident of the US but not a citizen, it’s all just no big deal.
US intelligence agencies are leaking like sieves trying to make the opposite point, getting word out to the American public that the American government has solid evidence that things are exactly as they appear, and that the Saudi government was behind the mysterious disappearance and likely murder of Khashoggi.
A Washington Post report based on US intelligence intercepts of Saudi officials states that MBS personally “ordered an operation to lure Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi back to Saudi Arabia from his home in Virginia and then detain him.”
Meanwhile, the United States has no ambassador accredited in Riyadh. Instead, the relationship is in the hands of Kushner, an unqualified nobody whose personal finances are shot through with conflicts of interest.
It’s a situation no normal president would tolerate. But no normal president would have Trump’s level of financial conflicts of interest.
Aaron David Miller writing for The Atlantic says that “The U.S.-Saudi Relationship Is Out of Control. But even Jamal Khashoggi’s disappearance may not force the Trump administration to recognize that fact.”
The administration’s identification with the 33-year-old crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, as a modernizer determined to open up the kingdom and tame its religious extremism has now been undermined by a crueler reality—that of a ruthless, reckless, and impulsive leader willing to repress and silence his critics at home and abroad. Whatever happened to Khashoggi is first and foremost on the Saudis. But in kowtowing to Riyadh in a fanciful effort to make it the centerpiece of U.S. strategy in the Middle East, the Trump administration has emboldened MbS, as the crown prince is known; given him a sense of invincibility; and encouraged him to believe there are no consequences for his reckless actions. And it is likely, unless confronted with incontrovertible evidence of Saudi responsibility for Khashoggi’s death or serious pressure from Congress, the president would be reluctant to impose those consequences even now. Donald Trump’s enabling of Saudi Arabia began even before he became president. He talked openly on the campaign trail about his admiration for Saudi Arabia and how he couldn’t refuse Saudi offers to invest millions in his real-estate ventures. His predecessors may have gone to Mexico or Canada for their first foreign foray; Trump chose Saudi Arabia. In a trip carefully choreographed by his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who quickly established close personal ties with the soon-to-be crown prince, Trump was feted, flattered, and filled with hopes of billions in arms sales and Saudi investment that would create jobs back home. Trump’s aversion to Barack Obama’s Iran deal also fueled the budding romance. Trump used his anti-Iranian animus (even while he boasted that he’d make a better deal with the mullahs) to energize his ties with Riyadh, and MbS was only too happy to exploit his eagerness. Reports that MbS saw Trump’s team, particularly Kushner, as naive and untutored should have come as no surprise.Previous administrations—both Republican and Democratic—also pandered to the Saudis, but rarely on such a galactic, unrestrained, and unreciprocated scale. Through its silence or approval, Washington gave MbS—the new architect of the risk-ready, aggressive, and repressive Saudi policies at home and in the region—wide latitude to pursue a disastrous course toward Yemen and Qatar. The administration swooned over some of MbS’s reforms while ignoring the accompanying crackdown on journalists and civil-society activists. Indeed, The Guardian and other outlets reported that MbS had told Kushner in advance of his plans to move against his opponents and wealthy businessmen, including some royals, in what might be termed a “shaikhdown.”