In case you were wondering whether Jamal Khashoggi‘s fiancée believes the Trump administration is sincere about getting to the bottom of what happened in Saudi Arabia’s Istanbul consulate earlier this month, the answer is definitively “no.”
Speaking in an interview with Turkish broadcaster Habertürk on Friday, Hatice Cengiz said she has declined an invitation from Donald Trump to visit the White House.
“I perceived it as a statement to win public favor”, she said.
That assessment would be correct. Since Khashoggi’s disappearance, the Trump administration has demonstrated a remarkably disconcerting propensity to avoid admitting the obvious, which is that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman likely ordered the murder.
Worse still, Trump has repeatedly suggested that there is virtually no scenario under which he would consider canceling a $110 billion arms deal with the Saudis as punishment for bin Salman’s likely role in the plot. It probably didn’t hurt the Crown Prince’s cause that the Saudis literally wired the U.S. $100 million on the very day Mike Pompeo embarked on what was ostensibly a fact-finding mission to Riyadh earlier this month. Predictably, that trip turned into a farcical photo op that found Trump’s Secretary of State posing for smiling pictures with the accused royals.
The administration’s reluctance to crack down on Riyadh and isolate bin Salman, creates horrible optics for Trump, especially in light of calls from key Republicans for a hardline stance from the White House.
Further, it’s abundantly clear that the U.S. not only knows exactly what happened to Khashoggi (CIA director Gina Haspel has reportedly heard the audio recording of Khashoggi’s torture and dismemberment), but was in fact in possession of intelligence intercepts ahead of his murder that clearly implicated bin Salman in a plot to lure Khashoggi back to Saudi Arabia in order to capture him.
Given all of that, and given all of the information Turkey has shared with the world, you’d be forgiven for suggesting that Trump and Pompeo are complicit in allowing the Saudis to buy time and craft a coverup.
Little wonder then, that Cengiz isn’t interested in meeting Trump or being paraded around the White House in front of the media for the sole purpose of shaping public opinion.
Cengiz also said Friday that she believed Khashoggi’s political connections in Turkey would have made the Saudis think twice before harming him. “His local network in Turkey was very good, as you know, his political network as well,” she explained, in the same interview. That did not ultimately deter bin Salman, but the Crown Prince is paying the price now, although that’s small comfort from Cengiz I’m sure.
Here is the clip from the interview that finds Cengiz discussing Khashoggi’s reservations about visiting the Saudi consulate prior to his untimely demise:
According to Istanbul police, Cengiz was placed under 24-hour protection this week, which one can only assume means the Turks believe her life might be in danger.
On Thursday, Saudi Attorney General Saud al-Mojeb said investigators have concluded that Khashoggi’s murder was in fact premeditated.
In the space of just three weeks, Riyadh’s story has gone from “Khashoggi left the consulate shortly after arriving” to “he was accidentally killed after a fist fight” to “the killers carried out their deed with premeditation.”
The only thing that’s left of the original story is the Kingdom’s steadfast refusal to admit that bin Salman had anything to do with it. You can be sure that part of the story will not be changing no matter how much evidence Turkey produces.