There’s no doubt that the recordings made by Bob Woodward of his 18 separate interviews with Donald Trump are going to contain any number of bombshells. On Tuesday, it was revelations that Trump knew about the danger posed by COVID-19 and deliberately covered up the threat to the American people. On Thursday, more of Trump’s darkest actions are coming to light.
A copy of the book made available to Business Insider makes it clear that Donald Trump was not only aware that Saudi usurper Mohammed bin Salman was behind the kidnapping, torture, dismemberment, murder, and burning of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi: Trump deliberately acted to provide cover for that murder. In fact, Trump called up Woodward to brag that he had protected bin Salman from investigations by Congress.
“I saved his ass,” said Trump. “I was able to get Congress to leave him alone. I was able to get them to stop.” To do this, Trump did what he always does—he lied about it. And he also refused to hand over a report that was required by law.
The deliberate brutality of Khashoggi’s murder cannot be exaggerated. After Trump adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner was suspected of providing bin Salman with a list of Saudi dissidents—a list that may have included Khashoggi—the journalist was lured into the Saudi embassy in Turkey on the pretense of completing some paperwork for his upcoming marriage. Once inside he was captured by an assassination squad sent by bin Salman. That squad, who had flown in on a special plane and came equipped with bone saws, beat and tortured Khashoggi, including clipping off his fingers as he screamed and the Saudi ambassador complained how how much blood was getting on the floor.
Turkish authorities were aware of the murder within minutes. A special UN investigation concluded that the blame for the murder, and everything that led up to it, fell squarely on bin Salman. But Trump refused to hand over a report demanded by the Senate on a bipartisan vote. Instead of a report, Trump waited until Feb. 8 and then sent Congress a statement that he “reserved the right to decline” doing an investigation.
When Trump outright thumbed his nose at the authority of the Senate, Republican senators did exactly what they have in every other such instance: nothing. Exactly nothing. Maine’s Susan Collins didn’t even pucker for a finger wag of “concern.” Republican Rob Portman did say that Trump owed the Senate a report and that “We can make a fuss about it.” There was no fuss. No muss. No report.
That refusal to provide a report came three weeks after Trump told Woodward, “I’ve gotten involved very much. I know everything about the whole situation.”
Trump then reminded Woodward that bin Salman denied any involvement in the murders.
Woodward: “Do you believe that he did it?”
Trump: “No, he says that he didn’t do it.”
Woodward: “I know, but do you really believe—”
That was when Trump cut off the conversation.
The relationship between Donald Trump and Mohammed bin Salman predates Trump’s time in office. Trump bypassed the usual allies to make his first outside-the-country trip to Saudi Arabia. He supported bin Salman in a blockade of U.S. ally Qatar—a blockade that put pressure on that tiny country to the tune of $20 billion a month, and resulted in an amazing last-minute $1.8 billion save of Kushner’s failing business. In addition to refusing to provide the report required by law under the Magnitsky Act, Trump used his veto to block congressional efforts at sanction following Khashoggi’s murder. He also vetoed a bill to end support for bin Salman’s war in Yemen, where tens of thousands have died to U.S. bombs sold by Trump on that first official visit. Trump even used emergency authority to rush another $8 billion worth of arms to bin Salman and his supporters, again over bipartisan opposition from Congress. And again, over ringing Republican silence.
It was always clear that Trump knew bin Salman murdered Khashoggi, because it was always immediately obvious to even the most casual observer. But what Woodward’s book makes clear is just how proud Trump was to support this authoritarian murderer over demands of Congress and attempts to get at the truth.
“Saudi Arabia—and I get along great with all of them. They buy apartments from me. They spend $40 million, $50 million. Am I supposed to dislike them? I like them very much.” —Donald Trump, at a campaign rally in 2015
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