The Biden administration will release an intelligence report that concludes Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the 2018 killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
The Washington Post reported Thursday, February 18, 2021, that an unclassified report produced by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence will be made public as early as next week.
‘I don’t have an update on the timing,’ press secretary Jen Psaki said Friday when asked about the coming release.
Khashoggi was writing columns critical of the Saudi government for the paper before he was drugged and dismembered after being lured to the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, to pick up the paperwork required for his marriage to a Turkish citizen.
The Biden administration has already indicated the president will snub ‘MBS,’ as the crown prince is called, and instead engage with his father, the 85-year-old Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin did speak with Crown Prince Mohammed, who as the Saudi Defence Minister is Austin’s counterpart, Saudi state media said Friday.
Biden is returning to ‘counterpart to counterpart’ engagement,’ the administration said, despite MBS being considered the country’s de facto leader.
The president also announced earlier this month that he will end support for Saudi Arabia’s controversial war in Yemen.
President Barack Obama began support for Saudi Arabia and President Donald Trump ramped it up, but Biden announced during his visit to the State Department that it’s ending.
‘We’re also stepping up our diplomacy to end the war in Yemen, a war which has created a humanitarian and strategic catastrophe,’ Biden said.
Trump made the U.S.’s relationship with the Saudis a priority, making his first trip abroad in 2017 to Riyadh.
Jared Kushner was a known friend of the crown prince.
The brutal Khashoggi killing didn’t change much.
In Bob Woodward’s book ‘Fear,’ the veteran Washington Post journalist wrote that Trump had said, ‘I saved his a**,’ about Mohammed.
‘I was able to get Congress to leave him alone. I was able to get them to stop,’ Trump said.
Trump saw the relationship with Saudi Arabia in dollar figures, warning lawmakers that the Saudis could go into business with Russia instead. In May 2019, Trump also bypassed Congress allowing the Saudis to buy $8 billion in arms.
Trump took MBS’ denial at face value, the Woodward book indicated.
‘He will always say that he didn’t do it. He says that to everybody, and frankly, I’m happy that he says that. But he will say that to you, he will say that to Congress, and he will say that to everybody. He’s never said he did it,’ Trump told Woodward.
Woodward asked if Trump believed that he ordered Khashoggi’s killing.
‘No he says he didn’t do it,’ the then-president replied. ‘He says very strongly that he didn’t do it. Bob they spent $400 billion over a fairly short period of time.’
That dollar amount was massively inflated.
Trump also ignored a law passed in early 2019 that instructed his administration to give Congress an unclassified ODNI report with ‘a determination and evidence with respect to the advance knowledge and role of any current or former official of Saudi Arabia … over the directing, ordering or tampering of evidence in the killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi.’
In February of last year, the ODNI told congressional leaders it was ‘unable to provide additional information … at an unclassified level,’ instead of sending them a copy of the classified CIA report.
In July, Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe reiterated to lawmakers that he would not be releasing an unclassified report because ‘the disclosure of additional details surrounding Mr. Khashoggi’s murder would undermine U.S. intelligence sources and methods.’
He also said, ‘I have determined that there is only a marginal “public interest” argument for this declassification.’
During her confirmation, Biden’s DNI pick Avril Haines said she would release the ODNI report.
A number of sunshine groups have also filed suit to get the report released through the courts, if the Biden administration doesn’t make good on its promises, or if the unclassified report it too heavily redacted.