Saudi Arabia has again changed its official line on the disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, marking its first admission since his October 2 disappearance that Khashoggi died in its consulate in Istanbul. The country’s new story, according to the Washington Post, is that Khashoggi was killed after a fistfight broke out in the consulate. Saudi Arabia also announced that it had made 18 arrests and fired five officials as a result of its initial investigation. For the last two weeks, Saudi Arabia has repeatedly insisted that Khashoggi had left its consulate before disappearing,
President Donald Trump, visiting a Luke Air Force base in Arizona on Friday, said, “I think it’s a good first step, it’s a big step. There’s a lot of people involved.” Asked if he accepts the new explanation offered by Saudi Arabia, Trump said, “I do,” adding that he would not want to see sanctions against the country, in order to maintain US arms sales.“Saudi Arabia has been a great ally, but what happened is unacceptable,” he added.
Throughout the past two weeks, Trump has opted to accept and repeat Saudi Arabia’s shifting explanations—ignoring US intelligence that the crown prince directed government agents to kill and dismember Khashoggi, who had been critical of the regime. A few days earlier, Trump had offered unsubstantiated speculation that “rogue killers” could be behind Khashoggi’s disappearance.
Members of Trump’s party remain skeptical about Saudi Arabia’s evolving narrative. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) tweeted last night:
It’s hard to find this latest “explanation” as credible.
— Lindsey Graham (@LindseyGrahamSC) October 19, 2018