Nine months after Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi’s fingers were clipped off and his body taken apart with a bone saw, the Senate will try once again to demonstrate to Trump that, while destroying the First Amendment through the daily demeaning of the press is, sadly enough, within the confines of the law, doing so by disassembling journalists is not. But just as he has on past occasions, Trump can be expected to veto the Senate’s actions. And, as on past occasions, enough Republicans can be expected to go along with Trump to sustain that veto.
If there was one thing Donald Trump made clear at the G-20 meeting in Japan, it was how little he cares about the lives of journalists. Between his rush to spend time with Vladimir Putin and the special breakfast he held for Mohammed bin Salman, it seems that running up a good journalist head count is a prerequisite to being on Trump’s friend list. And at no time was that more clear than when Trump informed Mohammed bin Salman that “no one” holds him responsible for the bloody torture, dismemberment, and murder of U.S. resident Khashoggi—a statement that required Trump to overlook not just the conclusion of a U.N. special commission looking into the murder, but also the analysis of the CIA.
As Politico reports, not just Democrats, but even some Republicans are in agreement that setting up a journalist who thought he was coming in for a wedding license and murdering him while his fiancee waited outside is a bad thing. With that in mind, the Senate will attempt to block a request from the Trump White House in which it is invoking emergency authority to sell even more arms to Saudi Arabia, so it can kill more people more quickly.
The effort to gain more weapons for Mohammed bin Salman’s murderous regime is bad enough that … well, here’s a quote: “The process that the State Department followed for these weapon sales not to put too fine a point on it — was crap.” That quote comes courtesy of of-course-you-can-insult-my-wife-and-father Ted Cruz. And in the tradition of everything Trumpish, the Senate will now hold a hearing … and give State a chance for a do-over.
But, as The Washington Post reports, Trump isn’t alone in welcoming Mohammed bin Salman back to a leadership role following a few weeks of pretense. Washington lobbyists are making a killing. Off of literal killing.
Senate efforts to block arms sales to Saudi Arabia, or to stop U.S. support for Mohammed bin Salman’s private, and very bloody, war in Yemen, have both ended with Trump vetoes. Meaning that the U.S. continued its arms sales and its support for fervently bombing school buses and homes.
The Senate will now attempt to block the sale of even more weapons to Saudi Arabia along very narrow lines, using legislation that doesn’t condemn the Kingdom’s human rights abuses or make note of Khashoggi’s murder, but only addresses the attempt to assert an emergency basis for more arms sales. It’s hoped that, on that very narrow basis, the Senate may be able to pull together enough non-murdery Republicans to slow Trump’s bizarre arms bazaar.
What will happen if the Senate fails to give the White House the requested emergency authority to expedite even more weapons to Mohammed bin Salman isn’t clear. But based on past evidence of everything from the “wall” to ignoring congressional subpoenas, Trump will simply act as he wants, and not one Republican will go beyond a limp finger-wag. Although they will claim credit for “standing up for human rights” when Trump isn’t listening.
That finger-wag is about one half-notch better than what’s happening down the block in Lobbyist Land. When Khashoggi first disappeared from the Istanbul consulate, and evidence made it clear that Mohammed bin Salman had shipped in a hit squad to beat, torture, and kill the journalist for the crime of being insufficiently deferential, a few lobbying firms loudly, and publicly, washed their hands of Saudi accounts. A very few have stayed away.
But, as it turns out, for most lobbyists that protest was loud, public, and very, very temporary.
Lobbying firms are once again pulling in millions to push Saudi efforts to buy arms, buy silence on human rights, and buy the assistance of the United States in intimidating Mohammed bin Salman’s enemies. One firm pulled down $19 million in the post-Khashoggi period. Another is still signed-up for $120,000 a month of for pimping Mohammed bin Salman’s murder express.
And why not? Not only has Trump been providing cover for the Saudi usurper, but he’s also made it extremely clear what the U.S. position is regarding MBS’ blood money. “Take their money,” Trump said in a June interview on Meet the Press. “Take their money.”
If Trump isn’t able to win a vote in the Senate, Jared Kushner can always deliver the arms on his next visit.
And in case it wasn’t obvious, Jared Kushner also refuses to place any blame for khashoggi’s murder on his buddy, bin Salman. Despite agreement from both U.S. analysts and international investigations, Kushner says he wants to “wait for the facts.”
Trump has turned down a request for the FBI to follow up on the UN investigation.