Browsing the blog archivesfor the day Sunday, October 14th, 2018.


This Is the Kind of Scandal That Starts Wars

Trump Maladministration

Nicholas Kristof writes,

Turkey claims to have audiotape of Saudi interrogators torturing Jamal and killing him in the Saudi Consulate. None of this is confirmed, and we still don’t know exactly what happened; we all pray that Jamal will still reappear. But increasingly it seems that the crown prince, better known as M.B.S., orchestrated the torture, assassination and dismemberment of an American-based journalist using diplomatic premises in a NATO country.

That is monstrous, and it’s compounded by the tepid response from Washington. President Trump is already rejecting the idea of responding to such a murder by cutting off weapons sales. Trump sounds as if he believes that the consequence of such an assassination should be a hiccup and then business as usual.

Frankly, it’s a disgrace that Trump administration officials and American business tycoons enabled and applauded M.B.S. as he imprisoned business executives, kidnapped Lebanon’s prime minister, rashly created a crisis with Qatar, and went to war in Yemen to create what the United Nations calls the world’s worst humanitarian crisis there. Some eight million Yemenis on the edge of starvation there don’t share this bizarre view that M.B.S. is a magnificent reformer.

There are credible reports that the U.S. knew the Saudis intended to seize Jamal Khashoggi before it happened, and did nothing.

Did I mention how much Trump loves the Saudis? His personal business ties to the Saudis are deep and go back many years. And in spite of his claims to the contrary, those ties appear to continue.

Since Trump took the oath of office, the Saudi government and lobbying groups for it have been lucrative customers for Trump’s hotels.

A public relations firm working for the kingdom spent nearly $270,000 on lodging and catering at his Washington hotel near the Oval Office through March of last year, according to filings to the Justice Department. A spokesman for the firm told The Wall Street Journal that the Trump hotel payments came as part of a Saudi-backed lobbying campaign against a bill that allowed Americans to sue foreign governments for responsibility in the Sept. 11 terror attacks.

Attorneys general for Maryland and the District of Columbia cited the payments by the Saudi lobbying firm as an example of foreign gifts to the president that could violate the Constitution’s ban on such “emoluments” from foreign interests.

The Saudi government was also a prime customer at the Trump International Hotel in New York early this year, according to a Washington Post report.

The newspaper cited an internal letter from the hotel’s general manager, who wrote that a “last-minute” visit in March by a group from Saudi Arabia accompanying Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman had boosted room rentals at the hotel by 13 percent for the first three months of the year, after two years of decline.

Saudi Arabia has also helped on one of Trump’s key policy promises, and helped the president’s friends along the way.

And, of course, Trump’s first foreign trip as POTUS was to Saudi Arabia, and Mr. Ivanka appears to have developed a close relationship with MBS.

So how will the Trump administration respond to the apparent murder of  Jamal Khashoggi?

Trump told reporters at the White House on Thursday that though he didn’t like the fact that Khashoggi had disappeared under mysterious circumstances, he didn’t want to risk losing a very lucrative arms deal with Saudi Arabia.

“This took place in Turkey, and to the best of our knowledge, Khashoggi is not a United States citizen, he’s a permanent resident,” the president said. “We don’t like it, even a little bit. But as to whether or not we should stop $110 billion from being spent in this country, knowing they [Saudi Arabia] have four or five alternatives, two very good alternatives, that would not be acceptable to me.”

So no, he’s not going to do anything, and I’m sure the Saudis were counting on that when they decided to take out Jamal Khashoggi. But I don’t think this issue is going to go away, either.

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