A day after President Donald Trump "literally put a price tag" on the life of missing Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi by saying halting weapons sales to Saudi Arabia over his alleged murder would be a "tough pill to swallow," Turkish officials have now told U.S. officials they have video and audio recordings of Khashoggi's torture and murder inside the Saudi consulate in Instanbul.
As the Washington Post reported early Friday:
The audio recording in particular provides some of the most persuasive and gruesome evidence that the Saudi team is responsible for Khashoggi’s death, the officials said.
"The voice recording from inside the embassy lays out what happened to Jamal after he entered," said one person with knowledge of the recording who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss highly sensitive intelligence.
"You can hear his voice and the voices of men speaking Arabic,” this person said. “You can hear how he was interrogated, tortured and then murdered."
Trump on Thursday said, "We're looking at it very strongly," but refused to condemn the Saudis even as the Post reports that "[w]ithin the White House, on Capitol Hill and among U.S. intelligence officials there is a growing belief that Khashoggi is dead and that Saudi Arabia is to blame."
While the Saudis continue to deny any involvement in Khashoggi's disappearance or murder, they have sent a diplomatic team to Istanbul on Friday to meet with Turkey government officials to discuss the matter.
Meanwhile, as U.S. journalists and media companies withdraw en masse from an upcoming Saudi-sponsored summit in protest of Khashoggi's presumed murder—a killing widely believed ordered by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Sulman (MbS)—critics say the silence and sheepishness of the White House and President Trump continues to deafen.
Trump has rarely been tough on human rights abusers.
He’s often attacked journalists.
He likes to try and deal with authoritarians and despots.
Do the math. https://t.co/p02iCmlMsv
— Aaron Blake (@AaronBlake) October 12, 2018
Criticizing Trump for being the "largely missing voice" on Khashoggi, Joel Simon, the executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalists, wrote in a Thursday op-ed that the U.S. president should make "an unequivocal demand that the Saudis come clean about Khashoggi's disappearance. If anything remotely like what is alleged actually happened to Khashoggi, the president should ensure that it has profound and lasting consequences for the U.S.-Saudi relationship."
Of course, notes Simon, "Trump has had an antagonistic relationship with the media and has mocked and attacked critical reporters. His regular denunciations of 'fake news' are increasingly echoed by authoritarian leaders around the world. But that is all the more reason why speaking directly and forcefully about the Khashoggi disappearance would send a message to the Saudis that certain principles are inviolable. It would also send a message to all those around the world who routinely violate the rights of journalists and think they can get away with it that maybe – just maybe – they will be held to account."
And as covered by The Young Turks on Thursday night in this segment: