The Washington Post is reporting, based on U.S. intelligence intercepts, that the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman, ordered an operation to lure Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi back to Saudi Arabia from his home in Virginia. Khashoggi disappeared last week after entering the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul. One Turkish official told The New York Times that Khashoggi was assassinated inside the consulate by a team of 15 Saudi operatives who used a bone saw to dismember his body before smuggling body parts out of the building.
The U.S. intelligence intercepts are the latest piece of evidence implicating the Saudi government in Khashoggi’s death, which has sparked a diplomatic crisis for the Trump administration, particularly for President Trump and his son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner. Kushner has actively cultivated Mohammed bin Salman as a key ally, praising the young leader, dining with him in Washington and Riyadh and hosting one-on-one phone calls with him outside of normal diplomatic channels. On Wednesday, President Trump also praised Mohammed bin Salman, calling him a “fine man,” as Trump answered reporters’ questions about who within the Saudi government he’d spoken to about Khashoggi’s disappearance.
President Donald Trump: “I’d rather not say, but at a very high level, the highest level. Let’s say—let me say this: It’s the highest level. OK?”
Reporter 1: “In the last couple of days?”
President Donald Trump: “Yeah, yeah. More than—and more than once.”
Reporter 2: “You had mentioned that you spoke with King Salman, so, I mean—”
President Donald Trump: “Well, I do anyway, and I’ve always found him to be a fine man. We’ve have a very good relationship. I’m not happy about this. We have to see what—what happens. You know, we have to see what happens. Nobody knows what happened yet. They don’t know over there. But it’s a very serious situation, and it’s something we’re taking very seriously. OK?”