What did the Trump regime know about the assassination of Washington Post contributor Jamal Khashoggi and when did they know it?
We had plenty of reasons to ask that question even before the Washington Post reported that the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has concluded that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman personally ordered Khashoggi's capture and murder.
Trump was asked about the CIA's assessment over the weekend and he denied that they've seen conclusive evidence, but White House aides who spoke to the Washington Post say Trump has already been briefed on the evidence.
Asked about reports that the CIA had assessed involvement by Mohammed, the president said: “They haven’t assessed anything yet. It’s too early.”
“It’s a horrible thing that took place, the killing of a journalist,” he said, adding that there would be a “a report on Tuesday” that will address what “we think the overall impact was and who caused it, and who did it.” [...]
[CIA Director Gina Haspel] and John Bolton, the national security adviser, have briefed Trump on the intelligence community’s findings, with Haspel offering pieces of evidence that show lieutenants of Mohammed were directly involved in the killing, according to people familiar with the matter.
Regardless of how conclusive the evidence may be, I don't expect Trump will do anything about it. The patsy and fall-guys identified by the Saudi government as the perpetrators have been sanctioned, but if Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) himself is sanctioned or punished in any meaningful way, I'll eat my hat.
Trump has continued to perpetuate the myth that we owe a significant number of jobs and economic gains to the Saudi regime. He has all but explicitly said it would be a mistake to hold MBS accountable over the murder of one journalist because it may cost the defense industry.
Like many other people, I believe Trump is more concerned about his own family's finances and dirty laundry than a handful of jobs at defense contractors. We know the Saudi government has spent a significant amount of money at Trump's properties and it's plausible that their financial entanglements are even greater than we currently know.
This is pure speculation, but I think it's possible the CIA's assessment was leaked to the press because of recent reports that Trump was considering expelling Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen from the country in attempt placate Turkish President Recep Erdogan and make this whole story go away.
For what it's worth (not much), the Turkish government said turning over Gulen wouldn't change anything.