The administration’s backing of a Saudi investigation into Khashoggi’s disappearance from the Saudi Consulate is akin to cheering O.J. Simpson as he looks for the “real killers” of his ex-wife. Instead of buying into the Saudis’ cock-and-bull story that this was an interrogation and rendition operation that was not intended to murder Khashoggi, Trump should be demanding an independent investigation.
The Saudi story makes little sense. For starters, since when is it acceptable to kidnap an individual using one’s diplomatic compound as shelter? Beyond that, no one other than Trump could believe that a 15-person delegation with a bone-saw-carrying forensic specialist could jet in and out of Turkey and utilize the Saudi diplomatic offices without permission of high-level officials. Moreover, how does an interrogation get botched to such a degree — if this is the so-called defense — that someone dies? Surely, the Saudi team wouldn’t risk hacking up a journalist and bringing his remains back to a kingdom ruled with an iron hand unless they were awfully certain that the regime had their backs. Nevertheless, Trump wants to look for suspects!
While Pompeo and Trump want to provide plausible deniability for the Saudis, American business leaders as well as House and Senate leaders in both parties do not. The conduct of the Saudis was so outrageous that Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) momentarily forgot his role as favorite Trump sycophant. He chatted with Fox News hosts on Tuesday, calling the Saudi crown prince “toxic” and insisting, “This guy has got to go.”
Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin (Md.), the ranking Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, told CNN: “There’s going to be consequences, and we’re going to take action. We’re an independent branch of government. We’ve shown that before with our relationship with Russia, we’ve shown it with North Korea, and we’ll show it here with Saudi Arabia.” Likewise, Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) condemned Trump’s participation in a “Saudi-led coverup and whitewash,” which is “undermining the credibility of the United States.”
Trump has a long history of embracing and spreading this sort of nonsense (birtherism, President Barack Obama bugging Trump Tower, Russian denials of meddling in U.S. elections) while refusing to accept established facts that he doesn’t understand or want to acknowledge (e.g. a trade deficit isn’t an invoice, climate change is real, and immigrants commit fewer crimes than native-born Americans).
In fact, the entire right-wing universe — from talk radio to Fox New parrots to intellectually corrupted groups to passive (or equally dishonest) lawmakers to pundits who should know better but can’t bring themselves to criticize Trump — is designed to perpetuate an information bubble wherein only Trump-approved facts enter. It’s how most totalitarians operate, which goes a long way toward explaining Trump’s affinity for the world’s strongmen.