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Jamal Khashoggi
8:08a.m.

Saudi Arabia on Saturday conceded journalist Jamal Khashoggi died inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, as Turkey has alleged. Khashoggi went missing two weeks ago, and Riyadh previously denied all knowledge of his whereabouts.

"Discussions that took place between [Khashoggi] and the persons who met him ... led to a brawl and a fist fight ... which led to his death," said Saudi Attorney General Sheikh Saud al-Mojeb. "The investigations are still underway, and 18 Saudi nationals have been arrested."

An unnamed Saudi official also told Reuters a "group of Saudis" killed Khashoggi when they put him in a "chokehold" as they "were trying to keep him quiet."

Five Saudi officials have reportedly been fired in connection to Khashoggi's death. Saudi Arabia did not say where his body, allegedly dismembered, may be now.

Riyadh provided no evidence to support this account. Nevertheless, President Trump told reporters he found the explanation credible, calling it "a good first step" and "a big step." "Saudi Arabia has been a great ally," he said. "What happened is unacceptable." White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders issued a brief statement "acknowledging" the Saudi probe is "progressing."

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, including Trump ally Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), were more skeptical. "The Saudi 'explanation' for murdering journalist and Virginia resident Jamal Khashoggi in a consulate — a fistfight gone wrong — is insulting," said Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), calling for congressional action. Bonnie Kristian

October 19, 2018

In a particularly pungent case of victim-blaming, "hard-line Republicans and conservative commentators are mounting a whispering campaign against Jamal Khashoggi that is designed to protect President Trump from criticism of his handling of the dissident journalist's alleged murder by operatives of Saudi Arabia — and support Trump's continued aversion to a forceful response to the oil-rich desert kingdom," The Washington Post reports, citing four GOP officials involved in the discussions.

The campaign includes "a cadre of conservative House Republicans allied with Trump" who in recent days have been "privately exchanging articles from right-wing outlets that fuel suspicion of Khashoggi," a Post columnist and Saudi government critic, the Post says. Still, the murmurs have begun to "flare into public view" as conservative media organizations and personalities — Rush Limbaugh, Front Page, Donald Trump Jr., and a sanitized version on Fox News, to name a few — "have amplified the claims, which are aimed in part at protecting Trump as he works to preserve the U.S.-Saudi relationship and avoid confronting the Saudis on human rights."

The main lines of attack — pushed by pro-Saudi accounts on Twitter — focus on and distort Khashoggi's association with the Muslim Brotherhood in his young and interactions as a journalist with late al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in the 1980s and '90s. "The GOP officials declined to share the names of the lawmakers and others who are circulating information critical of Khashoggi," the Post explains, "because they said doing so would risk exposing them as sources." It's a good bet Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) is not among them.

According to Turkey, Khashoggi was tortured, murdered, and dismembered inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. "Trump wants to take a soft line, so Trump supporters are finding excuses for him to take it," Weekly Standard editor William Kristol tells the Post. "One of those excuses is attacking the person who was murdered." Read more at The Washington Post. Peter Weber

October 18, 2018

While in Turkey on Wednesday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo listened to an audio recording of the alleged murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi inside Saudi Arabia's consulate in Istanbul, a senior Turkish official told ABC News on Thursday.

The official said the recording was played during a meeting, and Pompeo was also given a transcript. The Saudi-born Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist, was living in Virginia, and went to the consulate on Oct. 2 to get paperwork he needed for his upcoming wedding; this was the last time he was seen. Turkish officials have said, and U.S. intelligence increasingly believes, that Saudi Arabia is behind Khashoggi's disappearance and presumed murder. The State Department denied that Pompeo had a transcript of the recording or listened to it.

ABC News also is reporting that Turkish officials believe Khashoggi died of strangulation, after an eight-minute struggle. It's unclear if Pompeo passed the transcript on to Trump, but on Thursday, the president said it "certainly looks like" Khashoggi is dead, and if Saudi Arabia is behind it, the country will face "very severe" consequences. Catherine Garcia

October 18, 2018

There's a growing consensus in Washington and Europe that Saudi Arabia, specifically Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, is culpable in the Oct. 2 disappearance and likely murder of U.S.-based Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. And the latest group signaling its conviction of the crown prince's guilt is the U.S. intelligence community, The New York Times reports. This assessment, based so far on growing circumstantial evidence, poses a challenge for President Trump and some of his key advisers, who have urged patience and highlighted Saudi Arabia's denials and the kingdom's economic and strategic importance.

Trump can ignore or disagree with the U.S. intelligence assessment, the Times says, but so far he's keeping Congress out of the loop. The Trump administration has "clamped down" on sharing intelligence about the Khashoggi case and canceled a classified briefing scheduled for Tuesday, Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) said Wednesday. "I suppose they don't want us to see the intel," he said, and "I can only surmise that probably the intel is not painting a pretty picture as it relates to Saudi Arabia." Based on previous intelligence he reviewed, Corker added, "everything points not to just Saudi Arabia, but to MBS," as bin Salman is commonly called.

Other senators from both parties have also called for a stronger response to Saudi Arabia's apparently brutal murder inside its Istanbul consulate, and they can act without the White House, voting for sanctions with a veto-proof majority. But Trump is reportedly holding out for what The Washington Post calls a "mutually agreeable explanation" from the Saudis, one that avoids implicating MBS. "The president is trying to introduce a little calm into this, to wait and see who's directly responsible," Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani explained to the Post. "While he makes clear he doesn't approve of what has happened, it's complicated because this isn't a pure enemy he's dealing with, like if Iran did it." Peter Weber

October 17, 2018

While President Trump has been adamant about reserving judgment on Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi's disappearance until after an investigation is completed, Rudy Giuliani told The Washington Post on Wednesday that many senior members of the administration concluded last week that the Saudis ordered Khashoggi murdered.

Khashoggi disappeared from the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2, and Turkey says it has clear evidence he was murdered inside the building by 15 Saudi agents. The purported proof includes an audio recording of Khashoggi being killed and dismembered, and U.S. officials have said privately they do not doubt this account, the Post reports. There is no definitive proof that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the killing, but there's also no reason to think he did not plan the operation, U.S. officials said.

The Trump administration and Saudi royal family are now trying to come up with an explanation for what happened that does not implicate the crown prince, the Post reports. U.S. intelligence reportedly discovered before Khashoggi's disappearance that the crown prince was trying to lure him from his home in Virginia to Saudi Arabia, and Khashoggi told friends he did not trust overtures he was receiving from people inside the Saudi government.

Trump speculated earlier this week that "rogue killers" were behind Khashoggi's suspected death, and on Wednesday he became defensive, telling reporters he's "not giving cover" to bin Salman. Giuliani, Trump's adviser and lawyer, told the Post that "the only question is, was it directed from the crown prince or the king — or was it a group that was trying to please him?" He added, "I know the bloom is off the rose with the crown prince." Catherine Garcia

October 16, 2018

Using facial recognition software, public records, social media accounts, various databases, leaked documents, and more, The New York Times was able to confirm that at least nine suspects in the disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi work for Saudi Arabia's security services, government ministries, or military.

Khashoggi vanished on Oct. 2, after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. Turkey has said 15 Saudi agents flew into Istanbul that day on private jets, murdered Khashoggi inside the consulate within two hours of his arrival, then left the country.

The Times reports that one of the suspects is Maher Abdulaziz Mutreb, a diplomat assigned to Saudi Arabia's embassy in London in 2007. He's been seen getting off airplanes with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Paris and Madrid and spotted in several photos taken of the crown prince during a recent visit to the United States. It's possible he was serving as a bodyguard. Other suspects include two members of the royal guard, a member of the security team who travels with the crown prince, and autopsy expert Dr. Salah al-Tubaigny, the Times reports.

Tubaigny, who holds a senior position in the Saudi Interior Ministry, could only be directed to do something by a high-ranking Saudi authority, the Times notes. This strikes a blow to the suggestion that rogue agents murdered Khashoggi unbeknownst to the crown prince. Both the crown prince and his father, King Salman, have denied knowing where Khashoggi is, and said he left the consulate on his own. None of the suspects could be reached for comment. Catherine Garcia

October 16, 2018

President Trump defended Saudi Arabia on Tuesday, telling The Associated Press it wasn't fair to condemn the country over the disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Khashoggi was last seen at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2. Turkey has said he was killed by Saudi agents inside the consulate, and on Tuesday, a senior Turkish official told AP "certain evidence" was found that proved Khashoggi was murdered there.

Trump tweeted earlier in the day that he spoke with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who "totally denied any knowledge" of what happened to Khashoggi, and he told AP: "I think we have to find out what happened first. Here we go again with, you know, you're guilty until proven innocent. I don't like that. We just went through that with Justice Kavanaugh and he was innocent all the way as far as I'm concerned." Kavanaugh was accused of sexual assault by multiple women, and narrowly won confirmation to the Supreme Court. Catherine Garcia

October 13, 2018

In a preview clip of a CBS interview to air Sunday, President Trump promised "severe punishment" for Saudi Arabia if it is confirmed, as Turkey alleges, that missing Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi was murdered last week inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

"Nobody knows yet" if the Turkish allegations are true, Trump told 60 Minutes host Lesley Stahl. "But we'll probably be able to find out," he continued. "It's being investigated. It's being looked at very strongly, and we'll be very upset and angry if that were the case."

The United States has no ambassador to Turkey or Saudi Arabia as Trump has not nominated anyone to fill either post.

The president did not specify exactly what punishment he would prefer, though he shied away from proposals to cut off arms sales to Saudi Arabia, claiming that would lead to job losses in the U.S. defense industry. Trump also worked in a jab at the press in his remarks, noting Stahl would "be surprised to hear" him say there's "something really terrible and disgusting" about the murder of a journalist.

Watch the preview clip below. The full interview will air Sunday on CBS at 7:30 p.m. Eastern and 7:00 p.m. Pacific. Bonnie Kristian

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