The official Trump administration responses on the Khashoggi case are about as tepid and toothless as can be:
Pompeo puts out a statement on Jamal Khashoggi: “We call on the government of Saudi Arabia to support a thorough investigation of Mr. Khashoggi’s disappearance and to be transparent about the results of that investigation.” pic.twitter.com/wQHlAVcBQ1
— Kylie Atwood (@kylieatwood) October 9, 2018
Deeply troubled to hear reports about Saudi Arabian journalist Jamal Khashoggi. If true, this is a tragic day. Violence against journalists across the globe is a threat to freedom of the press & human rights. The free world deserves answers.
— Vice President Mike Pence (@VP) October 8, 2018
It took the Trump administration six days since Khashoggi first disappeared before they provided any official response beyond generic expressions of concern. The vice president’s statement alludes to Khashoggi’s likely murder, but neglects to mention that the Saudi government is the one being held responsible for the violence done to him. Secretary Pompeo calls on Saudi Arabia to support a thorough investigation, as if they are not the prime suspects of any credible investigation that would take place. The messages coming from the Trump administration are scarcely better than boilerplate statements, and it shows that the administration has no interest in criticizing the Saudi government or in holding them accountable for their crime. The president’s remarks earlier in the day were even more feeble:
“I am concerned about it. I don’t like hearing about it,” Trump told reporters at the White House. “Hopefully that will sort itself out. Right now nobody knows anything about it.”
This isn’t something that is going to “sort itself out.” The Saudi government is denying everything and hoping that other governments’ inattention or indifference will let them off the hook for the crime. The Trump administration doesn’t want to challenge the Saudis on anything, and so it appears they are going to pay just enough lip service so they can say that they didn’t completely ignore it.
I have referred on occasion to Trump’s “Saudi first” foreign policy in the region, and I fear that we are seeing more of it on display this week. That “Saudi first” policy has wrought enormous damage on Yemen and the wider region, and it has closely bound the U.S. to a regional menace that believes it can act without suffering any consequences in its relationship with Washington. The Saudi government has had no reason to think that the U.S. would disapprove of anything it does because the Trump administration has given them carte blanche for the better part of the last two years. It is past time that Congress changed that and showed the reckless leadership in Riyadh that they have exhausted our government’s patience.