The disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi journalist and Washington Post columnist critical of the Saudi government, has rightly led to bipartisan outrage in Washington. Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, for one, has vowed there will be “hell to pay” if, as has been reported by numerous news outlets citing multiple sources, the U.S. green-card holder was lured into the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2 and brutally murdered by Saudi agents.

As a news organization that understands the dangers journalists face at home and abroad, we agree with Graham and applaud the bipartisan effort of nearly two dozen U.S. senators — led by Republican Bob Corker of Tennessee, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Democrat Bob Menendez of New Jersey — calling for an immediate investigation into what are credible reports that the Saudi government is behind the journalist’s disappearance.

As Sen. Corker told the press last week after intelligence briefings on Khashoggi, “everything points at this juncture to Saudi Arabia” and “unfortunately it would appear that he’s been murdered.”

President Trump told 60 Minutes on Sunday that, if reports of Khashoggi’s murder at the hands of Saudi authorities are true, there would be “something really terrible and disgusting about that.” He went on to say that, “We’re going to get to the bottom of it and there will be severe punishment.”

But on Monday, after dispatching Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to Saudi Arabia and “other places if necessary,” Trump said he had spoken to Saudi King Salman and that he “firmly denied any knowledge” of Khashoggi’s disappearance.

Remarkably, the president then seemed to offer an alternative scenario that did not involve a direct order from the aging Saudi king or more importantly from Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the de facto ruler of the country whom Khashoggi had strongly criticized in his writing for using an ongoing “anti-corruption” campaign as cover to imprison or disappear political opponents, journalists, and human-rights activists within the Saudi kingdom.


“I don’t want to get into his mind,” Trump said of the king, a former business associate of the erstwhile real-estate magnate. “But it sounded to me like maybe these could have been rogue killers. Who knows? We’re going to try getting to the bottom of it very soon, but his was a flat denial.”

What’s remarkable about this statement is that, once again, Trump seems to be taking the word of an authoritarian leader — in this case, granted, a longstanding U.S. ally — over his own intelligence community.

According to a recent report by The Wall Street Journal, Turkish authorities have shared with U.S. intelligence officials an audio recording from inside the Saudi consulate that “makes it clear” the Saudis killed Khashoggi.

Even more remarkable, Trump seemed to be parroting what may soon be the official Saudi line. CNN has reported that two sources have confirmed that Khashoggi’s death “was the result of an interrogation (at the Saudi consulate) that went wrong, one that was intended to lead to his abduction from Turkey.”

Such a story, emanating from the White House and the House of Saud, conveniently distances the Saudi royal family from any direct involvement in the murder of a dissident Saudi journalist who sought exile in the U.S.and was highly respected among his peers.

Those of us not privy to intelligence briefings may never know definitively what happened to Jamal Khashoggi. President Trump has promised “severe punishment” if Saudi involvement is proven. Yet he has also repeatedly said that any potential U.S. sanctions should not include killing an arms deal with the Saudis.


We’re not promoting severing diplomatic ties with Saudi Arabia or jeopardizing a valuable alliance in a hostile region. But as journalists, we would hope the truth about a human life is more important than any arms deal.

As Florida Sen. Marco Rubio said Tuesday: “There isn’t enough money in the world to purchase back our credibility on human rights and the way nations should conduct themselves.”

Editorial by The Dallas Morning News

Visit The Dallas Morning News at

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.