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John Stoehr @johnastoehr
, 26 tweets, 5 min read Read on Twitter
1. If the Wall Street Journal is right, the president already knows that Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi was murdered in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. Yet he’s saying anything that comes to mind to protect America’s ally in the region. Why?
2. The newspaper reported this morning that Saudi operatives “beat, drugged, killed and dismembered” Khashoggi “in the presence of the kingdom’s top diplomat.”
3. It reported that Turkey “shared evidence in recent days, including the details of an audio recording, with both the US and Saudi Arabia to support their conclusion.” It said Khashoggi “wasn’t interrogated.” He was seized on entering the building.
4. WSJ: On the recording, a voice can be heard inviting the consul to leave the room, the people familiar with the matter said.
5. WSJ: The voice of a man Turkish authorities identified as Saudi forensic specialist Salah Al Tabiqi can be heard recommending other people present to listen to some music while he dismembered Mr. Khashoggi’s body, the people said.
6. Donald Trump, meanwhile, is deflecting attention away from the Saudi government, especially the 33-year-old Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, known as MbS. (Those operatives, by the way, are chummy with the prince.)
7. The president has said he doesn’t care what foreign governments do to their people, that his administration will not judge, and that he doesn’t think the murder of a journalist is reason enough to halt arms sales to the kingdom. On Fox Business last night, he said:
8. DJT: “So we’re not really hurting them, we’re hurting ourselves. So we want to be smart. I don’t want to give up a $110 billion order or whatever it is … You’re talking about jobs. What I’m doing is, we’ve created an incredible economy.
9. DJT: I want Boeing and I want Lockheed and I want Raytheon to take those orders and to hire lots of people to make that incredible equipment.”
10. Hours before that, Trump told the Associated Press: “Here we go again with, you know, you’re guilty until proven innocent. I don’t like that. We just went through that with Justice Kavanaugh and he was innocent all the way as far as I’m concerned.”…
11. But, if the WSJ is correct, the US already knew.
12. So far, the contours of the Khashoggi story have been about human rights and diplomacy. Should the US look the other way? Should the US surrender its moral capital or the sake of a few hundred jobs? Should the US privilege “interests” over “values,” as critics have asked?
13. These are important questions. What’s missing, though, is the president’s *literal material* interests. This story isn’t just about one country’s tense relationship with another country over an intern'l incident. This is abt one country’s leverage over the leader of another.
14. Put another way, this is what our nation’s founders feared: that a duly elected president could have material incentive to commit treason.
15. For instance (via Business Insider): Saudi Crown Prince Alwaleed bin-Talal purchased Trump's 282-foot yacht "Princess" for $20M in 1991 (Trump was nearing bankruptcy at the time) & was part of a group that purchased the financially troubled Plaza Hotel for $325M in 1995.
16. In 2016, the NYDN reported that the Saudi government also purchased the entire 45th floor of the Trump World Tower, for $4.5M, in June 2001. Given annual fee fares for the building at the time, Trump also was paid $5.7M by the Saudis between the purchase and 2016.
17. The most recent example came last year, as The Washington Post reported in August that a visit from Saudi officials to Trump's Trump International Hotel in New York City helped boost the hotel's quarterly revenue by 13 percent in 2018's first quarter.…
18. The New Yorker’s John Cassidy wrote Tuesday that when the president perceives that his interests are at risk, “he will say pretty much anything, regardless of how outrageous it sounds. Often, he is deliberately outrageous.”
19. Cassidy was talking about his political, not material, interests, but the claim applies to both. Kavanaugh’s confirmation had political stakes that might justify saying something outrageous. Can the same be said with respect to Saudi money?…
20. I can’t say I know what kind of injury the US would endure should it be revealed that Trump was paid, in effect, to look the other way while a permanent resident of the US was butchered by a country claiming to be our ally.
21. I don’t know if that’s treason. But the emoluments clause of the United States Constitution was designed expressly to prevent the president from being compromised materially. It says that:
22. “No Title of Nobility shall be granted by the US: And no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, shall, w/o the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.”
23. We know a lot about Donald Trump’s material stake in Saudi Arabia, but not enough. That’s why the Khashoggi isn’t only about human rights, international diplomacy and Realpolitik. It’s about this moment being a good time to see this president’s federal tax returns.
24. The Times asked Tuesday if the Democrats would seek the release of his tax returns should they take the House in November.…
25. But the question isn’t would.

It’s should. And the answer is yes.
26. Thank you so much for reading this thread! Please sign up for free to receive daily insight sent straight to your inbox by 2 p.m. every weekend. Thanks!…
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