“Maybe He Did And Maybe He Didn’t!” Trump Exclaims In Curious White House Release. Except The C.I.A. Concludes He Did…
We’re talking of course about Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s role in the murder of U.S.-based Journalist Jamal Khashoggi. And to be crystal clear: Trump is referring to just whether the Crown Prince might’ve known about the murder. According to the Washington Post, the C.I.A. is pretty certain he ordered it.
But we don’t necessarily agree with the assessment that this is yet another case where President “won’t believe his own intelligence community”. There’s just too much evidence this time, with some major machinations that set up the crime taking place on U.S. soil, presumably under direct surveillance by the U.S., involving the Crown Prince’s brother who is the Saudi Ambassador to the U.S.
He’s got to know. He just doesn’t care.
Or at any rate he’s tired of equivocating, especially when stacked up against mounting evidence pointing in a direction he doesn’t like, so he’s decided to side with the Saudis even as he proclaims not once, but twice in his statement: “America First!” The 8 exclamation points Trump uses in his brief statement might lead to the conclusion that he might “protest too much”. But most basically, Trump seems to be treating the Khashoggi case as a huge inconvenience. “It is what it is“, the Washington Post’s Josh Dawsey reports the President as saying. Or, as Mark Landler in the New York Times puts it far more eloquently than we ever could:
“The statement was a stark distillation of the Trump worldview: remorselessly transactional, heedless of the facts, determined to put America’s interests first, and founded on a theory of moral equivalence.”
In that 633 word statement, that’s written as Trump speaks, he takes the additional step of discrediting Khashoggi, calling the reporter as “an ‘enemy of the state’ and a member of the Muslim Brotherhood”, sourcing that quote to the Saudi government. But then insisting “my decision is in no way based on that”. At the same time he fails to mention Khashoggi was a U.S. permanent resident and employed by the Washington Post. This is a link to his last column.
Trump presents a vision of the Mideast that could’ve been written by Saudi Arabia, where its horrifying offensives in Yemen that have killed thousands of civilians and created economic devastation too, are nothing more than a necessary reaction to Iran “the world’s leading sponsor of terror”. He asserts the Saudis would “gladly” withdraw and in fact rebuild Yemen if Iran agrees to go.
Also, the “$450-billion” Trump says the Saudis have promised to “spend and invest” in the U.S., is at best only a pledge. At the same time, as we’ve mentioned repeatedly, Trump is virtually staking his Presidency on increased sales of U.S. military equipment to foreign governments, and giving them access to weapons systems they didn’t have before. That equipment—for reasons of national security—is all pretty much still made in the U.S.A., so he doesn’t have to worry about convincing corporations to bring factories and jobs back since those are already here.
Here’s Trump later in the day trying to explain his explanation: “We are with Saudi Arabia. We are staying with Saudi Arabia.” Click on the photo to play:
There will be some people who like Trump’s approach and will believe it’s consistent with his running the country like a businessman. And while lots of businesses boycotted an investment conference in Saudi Arabia last month, many still went because they don’t care about who they do business with, as long as they are making money. Or conversely, they’ll only care as long as it doesn’t cost them money. We believe this is a seriously under-covered component of the story, which has been limited mostly to the WWE going ahead with a big wrestling extravaganza there. Meanwhile, international banking big shots like Ken Moelis did attend. His company is public, which means he can — and should — be taken to task for it. People can also exert pressure on the defense contractors themselves — also all public companies. Thing is, it’s not likely they will. Because in Trump’s America, there are bigger fish to fry. And if Trump is calculating the public will soon lose interest when pitted against topics like health care and potential cuts to Social Security, he’s probably right. In fact, sad to say, but perhaps the only reason the Khashoggi story is still a front page story at all is he was a journalist, and we protect our own.
So what options do people who strongly disagree with Trump’s decision have left? The President himself points to it his statement when he says “there are members of Congress who, for political or other reasons, would like to go in a different direction – and they are free to do so”. Encourage Congress to pass a law sanctioning and/or limiting economic activity with Saudi Arabia, which it has every right to do based on the constitutional imperative that Congress is in charge of overseas trade (which to Trump’s credit is something lots of people seem to forget these days).
Then challenge Trump to veto it. It would require a major bipartisan effort. But the President’s counting on there not being much interest in Congress for taking any strong action, beyond just talk.
At there are others who argue it’s not that different than refusing to sanction take action against Philippines leader Rodrigo Duterte, even though he’s sanctioned the murders of thousands of alleged drug dealers and users without any trials. (Although Duterte’s been deliberately irritating the U.S. now by getting cozy economically with China.) Or when Trump says “our country does plenty of killing also” when confronted with the fact that another man he admires, Vladimir Putin, seems to have a habit of making horrible deadly accidents befall his political enemies and Journalists. But–while those things are also horrible–it is different. Although Khashoggi’s murder did not occur on U.S. soil, he was a dissident who sought and received protection from the U.S. against a government he rightly assessed was a real threat to his life. And against that backdrop, the U.S. government allowed him to become a permanent resident, and the Washington Post employed him as a columnist. We thought “America First!” had to do with protecting American values, not abandoning them out of fear of losing a business deal.
Quick Update On Our Story: “Democrats Experiment With The Idea Of Not Letting Nancy Pelosi Be Speaker Of The House“
Pelosi’s would-be opponent for Speaker, Representative Marcia Fudge of Ohio, announced she will support Pelosi. Fudge will chair a subcommittee on elections. Her decision not to challenge all but ensures Pelosi will be Speaker when the next Congress convenes in January.
Quick Update On Our Story: Two Major Things These Midterm Elections Proved…And What Lies Ahead…
Utah’s Mia Love–the only black Republican in the House–did not end up winning. She did pull ahead at one point, but when the results were certified late Tuesday she lost to Democrat Ben McAdams by a few hundred votes. Trump ridiculed Love on election night for not supporting him sufficiently. She was outspoken in her opposition when he called African nations “shithole countries”.
Have a great Thanksgiving! We’ll see you next week!