Accuracy in Media

President Trump should not wait for anyone to gather any more facts about the disappearance of dissident Jamal Khashoggi from the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, and should mete out the toughest of punishments to Saudi Arabia now, according to news stories from the Washington Post and New York Times.

It’s not Robert Costa, Josh Dawsey and Philip Rucker of the Washington Post saying this in “Amid global outrage over Khashoggi, Trump takes soft stance towards Saudis.” It’s that, as “gruesome details of Jamal Khashoggi’s alleged killing and dismemberment at the hands of Saudi operatives trickled into the public domain this week, calls sounded in capitals around the globe for immediate retaliation to the apparent human rights atrocity.”

The story acknowledges the Trump administration is trying to gather information. It acknowledges President Trump dispatched Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to meet with government leaders of both Saudi Arabia and Turkey to learn more and that Pompeo’s findings would not be conveyed to the president until Thursday.

It acknowledges Pompeo did not get to listen to a tape “Turkish officials say offers a ghastly rendering of Khashoggi’s killing and proves he was murdered inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul.”

It also acknowledges “the lack of a review [of the tape] by U.S. analysts makes it difficult for the administration to offer an independent assessment about who may be responsible for Khashoggi’s murder.”

But the story does not acknowledge that Trump has promised “severe consequences” if it is found Saudi intelligence agents killed Khashoggi in the embassy, as the government of Turkey has charged.

Instead, it reports that Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), who is retiring, said the administration has “‘clamped down’ on sharing intelligence about the Khashoggi case. … ‘I can only surmise that probably the intel is not painting a pretty picture as it relates to Saudi Arabia,’ Corker said.”

It then says that “based on earlier intelligence he had reviewed,” Corker had concluded “everything points not to just Saudi Arabia, but to MBS,” referring to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. “’This could not have happened without his approval.’”

The New York Times reported that intelligence agencies “are trying to take care not to limit the White House’s policy options, and just put forward facts about the case.”

“U.S. Spy Agencies Are Increasingly Convinced of Saudi Prince’s Ties to Journalist’s Disappearance,” by Julian Barnes, Matthew Rosenberg and Gardiner Harris, also pointed out the limitations Trump has had to this point because he doesn’t know the facts.

Intelligence agencies “have not yet been able to collect direct evidence of the prince’s involvement,” and “have not been able to conclude whether Prince Mohammed directly ordered the killing of Mr. Khashoggi, or whether his intention was to have Mr. Khashoggi captured and taken back to Saudi Arabia.”

But it noted that six officials told the Times off the record that American intelligence agencies are preparing an assessment for the president “as … Pompeo concluded a trip to the kingdom that failed to deliver an immediate diplomatic resolution to the crisis.”

Pompeo was not there to deliver an immediate diplomatic resolution to the crisis. He was there to gather information and, as other sources told The Times, to plead with the Saudis to “complete the investigation quickly and transparently.”

The Times closed with shots at Pompeo. It told us diplomats at the State Department “were dismissive” of the trip to Saudi Arabia, and that “Mr. Pompeo spent just over a day in Riyadh, where news footage showed him nodding and smiling as Prince Mohammed spoke. It was a very different image than that of a cut-to-the-chase congressman who had blisteringly questioned Hillary Clinton about the 2012 attack on a diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, becoming a conservatives’ hero.”

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