There are at least three important parts to any major US investigation of the Khashoggi murder and possibly more. But without investigation in those areas there can be no just or adequate U.S. response.
The first is what the US knew about the plans to kill Khashoggi and other “dissidents” in advance. If Kushner had the lead and was close to MBS, what were their discussions on this subject? When did they take place? How detailed were they? Did Kushner indicate US support?
Did Kushner brief Trump? Pompeo? Tillerson? Others?
Next, it is essential to know how much the US Intelligence Community knew about the plan to kill Khashoggi in advance. If they knew anything, who did they brief in the administration?
If anyone in the administration was briefed, who decided not to warn Khashoggi?
Finally, of course, we need to know how the US, Trump, Kushner, Pompeo, Bolton, and others have participated in the cover-up of the Khashoggi murder. What did they know and when? How did their public statements differ from what they knew? How closely did they work with the Saudis and the Turks and others to help sell the deficient and clearly untrue Saudi cover-up stories? (How closely are they working with them on that now?)
For example, we know now with a high degree of confidence that MBS gave the order to murder Khashoggi and that his brother, the Saudi ambassador, abetted the murder by helping lure Khashoggi to Turkey. It is impossible that the US did not have intercepts of those calls.
It is implausible they did not know the risks in advance. But we also know that Trump and others have known for a while that MBS was the man responsible for the murder and still they have sought to protect him. Even today, Trump brazenly suggests the commercial and other ties with Saudi are more important than holding them accountable for the cold-blooded, brutal murder of a U.S. resident and writer for one of America’s leading newspapers. He constantly inflates the importance of those ties to help make the case.
He is a central piece of the cover-up and his acceptance of the Saudi story is key to their efforts to try to bury this (which thus far is proving unsuccessful–in part, it must be said, due to the professionalism and sense of duty of the C.IA.).
Because he is personally so central, other questions arise. What are his financial ties to Saudi Arabia? What are Kushner’s? Why was Saudi the first stop of his first trip as president? We know Mueller is looking into these ties and Saudi efforts prior to the 2016 election.
In other words, this might not just bad policy on the part of Trump, it might not just be bad judgment or immoral, though it is all those things. It might be corrupt, as well. And the consequences extend beyond the Khashoggi matter to the US response to the Saudi efforts in Yemen.
Yemen is Khashoggi times 100,000 or more. It is perhaps 70,000 dead from the war and maybe 50,000 civilians dead of starvation and other health causes related to the war. It is the world’s worst humanitarian crisis with 14 million at imminent risk of famine. And the US has been actively supporting the Saudi-led efforts in that country and has been absolutely impotent, seemingly as a matter of policy choice, to stop or reduce the negative consequences of that brutal war. We have provided weapons and sent special forces to assist. We have provided refueling and intelligence and other logistical support. We have seemingly embraced it as a potential proxy war with Iran but truth be told, the strategic benefits of the conflict for us are very nearly nil.
The Obama Administration misplayed Yemen as well and helped set some of today’s tragedies in motion. But Trump has outdone that. Trump has compounded the errors of the past. And the stain of the crimes of Yemen is now as much on the US as on any of the countries actively tearing apart that unfortunate land.
To seek justice of Khashoggi is one thing. It involves the explicit recognition of MBS’ guilt & of the unacceptability of him continuing in his role as Crown Prince. It involves serious penalties for all involved & sanctions with teeth that remain in place until justice is done. It involves the cessation of US weapons sales to Saudi as part of all that and it involves punishment for any who have let personal economic ties compromise U.S. interests as well as punishment of any Saudis who committed crimes in or against the US and our residents. Further, it should involve a careful reassessment of the relationship and in particular of role in Yemen. We must be on the side of stopping the conflict and helping those in need. Now. Not at some uncertain time in the future.
Finally, we must remove those from high US office who are complicit in these crimes or in damaging US interests. The administration will not take the lead. So, the Congress must. There is bi-partisan outrage on these points now. It should be harnessed to produce action.
This demands action now in the interests of what is right but also of US policy in the region and worldwide–not to mention in the interests of those in Saudi Arabia and the region who share the desire of all for justice, peace and the preservation of the rule of law.