The Slatest

Saudis to Admit Jamal Khashoggi Died During Botched Interrogation, CNN Reports

A Turkish investigator stands next to the Saudi flag on the roof of the Saudi consulate at night.
A Turkish investigator stands next to the Saudi flag on the roof of the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 15.
Ozan Kose/Getty Images

CNN is reporting that Saudi authorities are “preparing a report that will acknowledge that Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s death was the result of an interrogation that went wrong, one that was intended to lead to his abduction from Turkey.” The report will also “conclude that the operation was carried out without clearance and transparency and that those involved will be held responsible.”

It’s a sign of how bad all this looks for the Saudis that the version of the story they’re going with is: We were just trying to kidnap him, but we killed him by accident. This is only marginally less appalling than premeditated murder.

CNN’s story notes that the “report is still being prepared” and “things could change,” suggesting the Saudis are still trying to get their story straight.

The kidnapping-gone-wrong theory would be relatively plausible, though it wouldn’t explain why, according to Turkish authorities, a forensic expert with expertise in autopsies was among the 15 men who left Saudi Arabia for Istanbul just nine minutes after Khashoggi entered the compound or why they brought a bone saw with them. Turkish officials also claim to have a recording of Khashoggi being “interrogated, tortured and then murdered,” according to their U.S. counterparts. So if the Turkish government goes along with this explanation, they’re either complicit in the Saudi cover-up or Turkish officials were seriously mischaracterizing the evidence they had.

This also means that Saudi officials, including Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman himself, were lying when they said Khashoggi left the consulate freely. It also means that King Salman was either lying to Donald Trump when he “firmly denied any knowledge” of what happened to Khashoggi or is remarkably uninformed.

The idea that the operation was carried out “without clearance” does sound awfully close to the “rogue killers” theory that Trump put out this morning.

The new admission will probably be enough for Trump to brush this incident under the rug. Will it be enough for the media and Congress to move on as well?