AFTER MEETING the king and crown prince of Saudi Arabia on Monday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he had raised human rights issues, including imprisoned female activists and the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. He said he had reiterated U.S. “expectations” that “every single person who has responsibility for the murder of Jamal Khashoggi needs to be held accountable.” That is the right position; the question is whether Mr. Pompeo and President Trump are serious about it. Unfortunately, all indications are that they are not.
The problem with Mr. Pompeo’s message is that he delivered it to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who the CIA has concluded was the author of the Khashoggi murder. How is it possible for the crown prince to hold himself responsible? To suppose that he will is ludicrous. Yet Mr. Pompeo continues to describe the “investigative process and the judicial process” the Saudis claim to have undertaken as fully credible. “Their continued commitment to continue to pursue all those connected is something that they have not wavered from,” Mr. Pompeo assured reporters.
Even setting aside the culpability of the crown prince, that’s an extraordinary assertion given what we know about the Saudi “process.” The regime has claimed that 21 people have been connected to the murder, but only 11 have been charged in court. Those excused appear to include two close aides to Mohammed bin Salman: Saud al-Qahtani, who has been sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department for his role in the affair, and Ahmed al-Assiri, the former deputy chief of intelligence.
The Post’s David Ignatius reported last week that Mohammed bin Salman remains in contact with Mr. Qahtani and is pressing ahead with a campaign to silence dissent. According to the family of Loujain al-Hathloul, one of the detained female activists, Mr. Qahtani was present last summer when she was subjected to torture that included waterboarding and electric shocks, and he personally threatened to rape and kill her.
Meanwhile, news accounts from Turkey say that Salah Muhammed al-Tubaigy, a forensic specialist who reportedly dismembered Mr. Khashoggi’s body with a bone saw, is living quietly with his family in a villa in Jiddah.
Mr. Pompeo no doubt is aware of all this. Yet when he was asked whether he felt assured that the Saudis were going to get to the bottom of the Khashoggi case, he responded: “They are still working through their fact-finding process.” The Trump administration, he added, was doing the same.
In reality, what the administration appears to be doing is what it has done all along: help the Saudi regime protect Mohammed bin Salman and others responsible for the murder from serious consequences — particularly from Congress. The new House Democratic leadership should not allow that to happen. The Senate passed a resolution last year holding Mohammed bin Salman responsible for the Khashoggi murder; House Democrats should now work to assure that he and all other senior officials involved face consequences, including U.S. sanctions.