On Friday, Saudi Arabia confirmed that Washington Post writer and legal US resident Jamal Khashoggi was killed in their embassy in Istanbul.
Al-Jazeera reported on the official statement by Saudi Attorney-General Sheikh Saud al-Mojeb:
“Discussions that took place between him and the persons who met him … at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul led to a brawl and a fist fight with the citizen, Jamal Khashoggi, which led to his death, may his soul rest in peace,” the attorney-general said in a statement.
“The investigations are still under way and 18 Saudi nationals have been arrested.”
President Trump, asked about the official statement from Saudi Arabia, called it “credible”, a “great first step” and “important”. He stressed, however, that he would not want to risk harm to American companies by halting a multi-billion dollar arms sale to the Saudis that Trump has repeatedly claimed as a major success for his trade negotiations.
President Trump’s assessment of the Saudi statement was not shared by one of his vocal supporters in Congress, Senator Lindsey Graham.
His views on the arms deal was not shared by another strong supporter, Senator Rand Paul.
Since the disappearance of Khashoggi, the official position from Saudi Arabia has been that he left the building but that they could not prove it despite the presence of cameras at the exit; that they did not know what happened to him; and that his disappearance may have been the work of rogue agents acting independently of the state. Now they are saying, after Turkey has claimed to have audio and video evidence of his murder inside the embassy, that the 59 year old Khashoggi got into a fight with fifteen trained military personnel and they were unable to restrain him without killing him.
As a legal resident, Khashoggi was afforded a measure of protection by the United States. The Senators seem to be concerned, at least for the moment, that prioritizing an arms deal over the lives of the US populace is a dangerous precedent. The President is demonstrating fewer such issues.