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The People

JAMAL'S FINAL OP-ED: WHAT THE ARAB WORLD NEEDS MOST IS FREE EXPRESSION

  • Karen Attiah, the Post's Global opinions editor, received a column from Khashoggi's translator the day after he was reported missing in Istanbul. 
  • "...Arab governments have been given free rein to continue silencing the media at an increasing rate. There was a time when journalists believed the Internet would liberate information from the censorship and control associated with print media. But these governments, whose very existence relies on the control of information, have aggressively blocked the Internet," Khashoggi writes.
  • "The Arab world needs a modern version of the old transnational media so citizens can be informed about global events. More important, we need to provide a platform for Arab voices...Through the creation of an independent international forum, isolated from the influence of nationalist governments spreading hate through propaganda, ordinary people in the Arab world would be able to address the structural problems their societies face."

Details about Khashoggi's death are trickling out: The New York Times's David Kirkpatrick and Carlotta Gall describe new details described to them by a senior Turkish official: 

  • Khashoggi was "dead within minutes, beheaded, dismembered, his fingers severed, and within two hours the killers were gone, according to details from audio records described by a senior Turkish official on Wednesday."
 

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Global Power

'MUTUALLY AGREEABLE': That's the term multiple officials and analysts are using to describe the "explanation" for Khashoggi's death that Trump administration officials and the Saudis are seeking. And both sides want one that doesn't implicate Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, reports The Post's Shane Harris. 

  • The key quote: "But it will be difficult for the young ruler to escape scrutiny, as mounting evidence points not only to the Saudi government’s knowledge of Khashoggi’s fate, but to a connection by Mohammed to his disappearance," Shane reports.
  • Et tu, Rudy?: "Even one of the president’s closest advisers, Rudolph W. Giuliani, said many senior members of the administration concluded more than a week ago that the Saudis had killed Khashoggi. 'The only question is, was it directed from the crown prince or the king — or was it a group that was trying to please him?' Giuliani said in an interview." 
  • Not gone rogue (killers): “As much as the White House is eager to absolve MBS, the rogue coverup is unraveling before it’s even official,” Brookings Institute's Saudi expert Bruce Riedel tells Shane. 
  • A deal?: "Western diplomats suspect that the kingdom will also compensate Turkey for its willingness to launch a joint investigation on Khashoggi's disappearance -- a payback that could come in the form of large-scale debt relief, strategic buyouts or other arrangements that boost Turkey's ailing economy," reports John Hudson.

WHAT THE INTELLIGENCE COMMUNITY IS TALKING ABOUT: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's maneuverings around the Khashoggi situation are part of a broader strategy to counter MBS's regional influence.

  • "A fair number of people in the intelligence community and elsewhere are talking about how well the Turks have played everyone on this, although no one is sympathetic to the Saudis," a former senior intelligence official told Power Up. 
  • "Turkey has hopelessly outplayed the Saudis. It's ironic almost beyond belief that we end up with TURKEY defending human rights," said the Center for Strategic Studies's Tony Cordesman, former Defense and State Department official. 
  • "I have to assume that the Turks know exactly what pound of flesh they want... This has  been a masterfully orchestrated campaign on their part. Forget PR firms in D.C. — we should all be hiring the Turks," another former administration official told us. 

At the White House

REALPOLITIK: As the outrage over Khashoggi's death rises in Washington and other world capitals,  Trump "has remained dogged about the bottom line," report Robert Costa, Josh Dawsey and Philip Rucker.

  • Notable: "In days of private phone calls and Oval Office huddles, Trump has repeatedly reached for reasons to protect the U.S.-Saudi relationship, according to administration officials and presidential advisers," my colleagues report.
  • Why? Bob, Josh and Phil say Trump is concerned about the Saudis purchasing their weapons from China; cutting off its oil supply to the U.S.; and "losing a key partner" in countering Iran's regional influence.
  • Money talks: Trump believes the Saudis are just too rich to be isolated from the world community.
  • Hands off: "Meanwhile, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) said the administration had 'clamped down' on sharing intelligence about the Khashoggi case. 'I can only surmise that probably the intel is not painting a pretty picture as it relates to Saudi Arabia,' Corker said."

Here's the problem: The administration's embrace of practical considerations over human rights could presage a tectonic shift in the U.S. foreign policy, according to former Ambassador to Qatar who served under both Obama and Trump, Dana Shell Smith:

  • Winning: "The parallels to [Brett] Kavanaugh are correct: the Trump White House put a bet on a horse without giving a damn about the repercussions  and the only option is to make sure that this horse wins."

SPEAKING OF KAVANAUGH: White House counsel Don McGahn has officially departed, leaving behind the successful installation of two Supreme Court nominees and frequently clashes with the president over Robert Mueller's investigation. Washington lawyer Pat Cipollone will replace him.

  • Just in time: The Post's Seung Min Kim and Carol D. Leonnig report, "The transition comes as the White House is bracing for potential major losses in November’s midterm elections, which could hand control of the House of Representatives to Democrats who are already preparing to launch an onslaught of investigations into the Trump administration. The White House Counsel’s Office, whose staffing has been decimated in recent months, would be the clearinghouse for the administration’s response to subpoenas and oversight requests."

On K Street

C.R.E.A.M. [Cash Rules Everything Around Me]: More leaked details of the Khashoggi video and/or audio are going to soon leak and ex-administration officials wonder when or if lobbyists and big business will break ties.

  • "It'll be salacious and horrible ... but then the reality of geopolitics will set in, a government that has abandoned its moral compass will find a way to pursue mutual interests without exacting any change, and only then will we find out what kind of stomach the business community has. Is U.S. business going to have a lasting rejection of Saudi money?" Ambassador Shell Smith told Power Up. 

CHARM OFFENSIVE: When MBS's brother, Prince Khalid bin Salman, arrived in the U.S. as the new Saudi ambassador in December 2017, he threw an extravagant dinner party, featuring a performance by Gladys Knight, for an intimate group of high-powered CEOs and Washington officials, according to a source who attended. Some of the invited guests were Blackrock CEO Larry Fink and Lockheed Martin CEO Marillyn Hewson.

  •  "No," Fink responded after he was asked by CNBC if he would cut business ties with the Saudis if they are  found to have ordered Khashoggi's killing. BlackRock unveiled a $40 billion dollar infrastructure fund with Saudi Arabia ahead of Trump's 2017 visit and Fink was one of a handful of CEOs who accompanied the president on the trip.

  •  Fortune this year dubbed Hewson the most powerful woman in the world. Lockheed and Riyadh have been doing business for a half century and, last year, the company announced a $28 billion deal with the kingdom. Plus, Hewson gave MBS a personal tour of Lockheed’s satellite and missile defense production facilities when the prince visited Sunnyvale, Calif. earlier this year. 

SWAMPY:

  • The Sonoran Group: Just before Trump visited Saudi Arabia, the group scored a huge $5.4 million contract and raised eyebrows — as CNN reported  — for its roster of ex-Trump advisers including Stuart Jolly, a national field director for the Trump campaign; and Jacob Daniels, chief of staff for the Michigan campaign operation.
  • The Daily Beast's Lachlan Markey broke the news earlier in the week that Southfive Strategies signed on to do public relations for the Muslim World League just two days after Turkish officials announced their investigation into Khashoggi's disappearance. "While Southfive’s client is not an official arm of the Saudi government, the manner in which it registered its services with DOJ indicates that the firm is effectively promoting Saudi interests," Markey wrote. 
  • A former White House official explains it all: "The Saudis are the crown jewel client of the lobbying world." 

On The Hill

WILL HE STAY OR WILL HE GO?: On Wednesday, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said he's still planning to attend the Saudi investment conference known as "Davos in the Desert." But the secretary will today revisit his decision. Most lawmakers from both parties have some advice: Skip it.

  • Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.), a top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said don't go. “I don’t think any of our government officials should be going and pretending it’s business as usual until we know exactly what’s happened here."
  • Two more GOP senators and  Foreign Relations members, Jeff Flake (Ariz.) and Todd Young (Ind.), agreed. "Saudi Arabia has engaged in gross violations of human rights and helped cause the world’s worst humanitarian crisis," Young wrote on Twitter.
  • From the left: One of the top-ranking Democratic senators, Dick Durbin (Ill.), said it "shouldn't be a hard decision" for Mnuchin not to attend.
  • Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) — who has lately been the loudest voice in many rooms — also weighed in loud and clear in a Tuesday appearance on Fox & Friends: “This guy has got to go,” he said of MBS. “He had this guy murdered."
  • But at least one GOP senator, Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), thinks Mnuchin should attend. “Those are important meetings, they’re important for our people to go to. So I don’t have any problem with people going. And especially this case,” Hatch told CBS News.
  • Watch Sen. Bernie Sanders react to Trump's comparing the Kavanaugh and Khashoggi cases: "Jesus ... is that really what he said?"

In the Agencies

A STARTLING STATISTIC: “The number of migrant parents entering the United States with children has surged to record levels in the three months since President Trump ended family separations at the border,” reported The Post’s Nick Miroff and Josh Dawsey, who obtained unpublished Department of Homeland Security data.

  • A key quote: “We’re getting hammered daily,” said a South Texas Border Patrol agent.
  • According to the DHS numbers, Border Patrol arrested 16,658 family members in September — the highest one-month total on record and an 80 percent increase over July. The crisis has infuriated Trump, who has considered reinstating the family separation policy, despite the controversy it created.
  • But not so fast, say GOP strategists working on the midterms: "The separations coincided with the worst polling times of the presidency and that reinstituting separations would sag numbers for the Republicans, who are already struggling in many close races,” Miroff and Dawsey wrote.

In the Media

  1. Feel like you're there: Borderline: Navigating the invisible boundary and physical barriers that define the U.S.-Mexico border by Laris Karklis, Ann Gerhart, Joe Fox, Armand Emamdjomeh and Kevin Schaul via The Post
  2. What Erdogan's reading: Turkey passes a crucial market test after months of turmoil by CNBC's Spriha Srivastava
  3. Remember when?The Ghosts of the ’68 Election Still Haunt Our Politics by Ed Kilgore via New York Magazine
  4. What to read before you build your homeHouses intact after Hurricane Michael were often saved by low-cost reinforcements by Patricia Sullivan, Frances Stead Sellers and Emily Wax-Thibodeaux via The Post
  5. What the deal-makers are reading: Pump and Trump by Heather Vogell, Andrea Bernstein, Meg Cramer and Peter Elkind via WNYC and ProPublica
  6. Look out!As NASA’s prized telescopes falter, astronomers fear losing their eyes in space by Sarah Kaplan via The Post
  7. What to read with one hand on your crystal ballOdds are, your next governor will be a Democrat, by Nate Silver via of FiveThirtyEight

Viral

RETIRED MARINE AWARDED THE MEDAL OF HONOR: Fifty years ago, during the Battle of Hue — one of the Vietnam War's most brutal — Sgt. Maj. John L. Canley repeatedly ran through enemy fire to save his fellow soldiers, often carrying them to safety. In the East Room of the White House yesterday, 50 years after the fighting, Trump awarded Canley the Medal of Honor. Read the interview Canley gave to CBS News.