The result is an insult to Khashoggi’s family and to all those, including a bipartisan congressional majority, who have demanded genuine accountability in the case. International acceptance of the result would not only be morally wrong but dangerous, too: It would send the reckless Saudi ruler the message that his murderous adventurism will be tolerated.
Beginning in 2017, Khashoggi lived in the United States and contributed columns to The Post criticizing the brutal domestic repression carried out by Mohammed bin Salman, who has targeted activists, writers and intellectuals advocating peaceful reform, as well as conducted the disastrous war in Yemen. After the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul reported that Khashoggi was seeking papers he needed to marry, Mohammed bin Salman’s deputies dispatched a 15-member hit team to meet him, including a forensic doctor who arrived with a bone saw.
A spokesman for the Saudi public prosecutor said Monday “there was no prior intention to kill” Khashoggi and the murder was “a snap decision.” That’s a documented lie: An investigation by a U.N. envoy, Agnes Callamard, heard audiotapes in which the doctor and the head of the hit team discussed Khashoggi’s dismemberment before he entered the consulate.
“According to my sources, the prosecutor had argued that the killing of Mr. Khashoggi had been premeditated. The Crown Prince had argued that this was an accident against the evidence,” Ms. Callamard tweeted Monday. “Guess who the Judge followed?”
It’s unlikely Mohammed bin Salman would have so brazenly obstructed justice if not for the support of President Trump. Incredibly, the White House issued a statement Monday calling the verdict “an important step in holding those responsible for this terrible crime accountable.” Republicans in Congress who vowed to insist on consequences for the murder quietly folded this month, stripping a sanctions provision from this year’s Defense Department authorization act because of Mr. Trump’s opposition.
One surviving provision is a requirement that the director of national intelligence submit a report to Congress within 30 days of identifying any Saudi implicated in “the directing, ordering or tampering of evidence” in the Khashoggi case. It would be hard for acting director of national intelligence Joseph Maguire to comply without naming Mohammed bin Salman, since the CIA is known to have concluded that he ordered the killing. Perhaps that’s why the Saudis suddenly announced a verdict in their sham trial: to provide the Trump administration with a pretext to exclude the crime’s real authors. Congress must demand that the DNI’s report is comprehensive and honest — and that all those named suffer consequences.