In the Face of Criticism, Saudi Government Keeps its Head


Straight from the horse’s mouth:

Saudi Public Prosecutor: Preliminary Investigations into Case of Citizen Jamal Khashoggi Showed his Death

Saturday 1440/2/11 – 2018/10/20

Riyadh, Safar 10, 1440, Oct 19, 2018, SPA — The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s Public Prosecutor stated the following:
Preliminary investigations carried out by the Public Prosecution into the disappearance case of the citizen Jamal bin Ahmad Khashoggi revealed that the discussions that took place between him and the persons who met him during his attendance in the Kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul led to a quarrel and a brawl with the citizen /Jamal Khashoggi, resulted in his death.
The Public Prosecutor confirms that its investigations into this case are continuing with the (18) individuals who are all Saudi nationals in preparation for reaching all the facts and declaring them and to hold all those involved in this case accountable and bringing them to justice.

Also, there is this reassuring news:

Saudi King orders formation of committee headed by crown prince

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman has ordered the restructuring of the command of the general intelligence agency under the supervision of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the official Saudi press agency said on Saturday.

And this is certainly a relief:

MBS had no knowledge of ‘specific’ Khashoggi operation: Reuters source

Saudi Arabia’s crown prince had no knowledge of the specific operation that resulted in the death of Jamal Khashoggi in the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul, a Saudi official familiar with the investigation told Reuters on Friday.

“There were no orders for them to kill him or even specifically kidnap him,” said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity and adding that there was a standing order to bring critics of the kingdom back to the country.

“MBS had no knowledge of this specific operation and certainly did not order a kidnapping or murder of anybody. He will have been aware of the general instruction to tell people to come back,” the source said, using the initials of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

As to the venue of the corpus delicti, this helpful explanation:

The source said the whereabouts of Khashoggi’s body were unclear after it was handed over to a “local cooperator” but there was no sign of it at the consulate.

And who could have predicted this?

Trump: Saudi announcement on Khashoggi ‘good first step’

US President Donald Trump said Saudi Arabia’s announcement on Saturday confirming Jamal Khashoggi’s death is a “good first step, a big step”.

Trump said what happened to Khashoggi is “unacceptable”, adding however, that he thinks Saudi Arabia’s explanation was credible.

Aardvark’s only remaining question:

When a prince throws some of his bodyguards under the bus to save his fat neck, how comfortable will he feel in the protection of his remaining bodyguards?

“I’ve Never Seen Anything Like This”


And Away We Go! Early Voting Clues Point To Very High Interest Election:

It’s far too early to read the tea leaves from the early voting returns. … But given the polls of voter enthusiasm, the astronomical fundraising numbers, and the remarkable number of ballots cast in this year’s special elections and primaries, there’s plenty of reason to believe this is going to be a uniquely high turnout midterm election.

University of Florida professor Michael McDonald, who runs the United States Election Project blog, expects that some 45-50 percent of eligible U.S. voters will participate in the midterms—a figure not seen in a midterm election since 1970. In the 2014 midterms, slightly over a third of eligible voters, or 37 percent, cast ballots.

McDonald is basing that prediction in part on the high rates of early voting in states like Georgia, where turnout is three times higher than it was at this time in 2014.

“The initial early voting data we’re seeing is very unusual,” McDonald told TPM. “I’ve never seen anything like this.”

In Georgia, a state that maintains individual-level voting data, black voters are turning out in huge numbers compared to the previous midterm cycle.

A Few Thoughts from the Chief Justice

I tried, but was unable, to find the actual text of Chief Justice Roberts’ speech on Tuesday. It was apparently short, and the following seems to be a full account of it:

Chief Justice Roberts emphasizes Supreme Court’s independence:

Speaking at the University of Minnesota Law School in Minneapolis on Tuesday afternoon, Chief Justice John Roberts took a few minutes to address the “contentious events in Washington of recent weeks.”

“I will not criticize the political branches,” Roberts began, choosing instead to “emphasize how the judicial branch is—how it must be—very different.” Unlike public officials, members of the judicial branch “do not speak for the people, but we speak for the Constitution.”

“Our role is very clear,” Roberts maintained: “We are to interpret the Constitution and laws of the United States and ensure that the political branches act within them.”

To do this job, Roberts stressed, “obviously requires independence from the political branches.” As exemplars of cases requiring independence, he cited school-desegregation case Brown v. Board of Education, free-speech case West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette and Youngstown Sheet & Tube Company v. Sawyer, a case on the limits of presidential authority during war.

“The court has from time to time erred and erred greatly,” Roberts admitted, “but when it has, it has been because the court yielded to political pressure,” as in Korematsu v. United States, upholding the internment of Americans of Japanese descent during World War II.

In addition to judicial independence, Roberts stressed collegiality, “which he described as a “shared commitment to a genuine exchange of ideas and views through each step of the decision process. We need to know at each step that we are in this together.”

A “concrete expression of that collegiality” is found “in a tradition that has prevailed for over a century.” Before taking the bench for oral argument or entering the conference room to discuss cases, the justices shake each other’s hands.

Roberts did not mention Justice Brett Kavanaugh by name, but Roberts did quote his newest colleague as saying that “we do not sit on opposite sides of an aisle, we do not caucus in separate rooms, we do not serve one party or one interest, we serve one nation.”

“I want to assure all of you,” Roberts said in closing, “that we will continue to do that to the best of our abilities whether times are calm or contentious.”

Will the Associate Justices Heed the Chief Justice’s Admonitions? Is the Court Delegitimized? Have We “Lost the Court for a Generation”?

I will give you the truthful answer, not necessarily the one you expect or the one you want to hear.

The truthful answer is that we don’t know. We can only watch what they do.

Are We Angry Enough?


Morning Joe and Mika had a hissy fit at the beginning of their show this morning, because—so they said—Democrats are not angry enough. I turned off the teevee and went to the computer.

I don’t know about you, but I am fit to be tied. And so are a hell of a lot of other people.

Here are a couple of morning reads.

Stacey Abrams Always Knew They’d Try to Cheat:

“Well, she’s gonna have a tough time, being black,” a white suburban retiree tells me flatly as we sit down for lunch at Savannah’s historic Olde Pink House restaurant. His candor about race, which I appreciate, isn’t the only thing that surprises me. David (a pseudonym) is a lifelong conservative and Trump voter who nonetheless plans to vote for Abrams. He thinks her Republican opponent, Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp, is “an idiot.” Trump’s administration has turned out “worse than I even imagined,” he confesses. And in an age when we suffer at least 10 school shootings a year, “I’m sick of the NRA,” he tells me, even though he’s a gun owner and former member.

“I’m an angry Republican, and I’m trying to give my party a kick,” he declares. Even though David doesn’t want me to use his real name, he says he’s extremely vocal about his plans to vote for Abrams when talking to fellow Republicans in his affluent white retiree community. “And, honestly, I don’t get a lot of pushback,” he adds.

We will know in three weeks how many Davids there are out there. I think there are quite a few. For one thing, they seem to have stopped writing checks to the Republican Party. But we shall see what we shall see.

Meanwhile, President Bullshit—who has trouble seeing anything wrong with deconstructing journalists with bone saws—employed his ineffable political instincts and masterful timing to prance around last night in front of his angry mob and say this:

At Montana rally, Trump praises congressman for assaulting reporter

Sometimes God Just Has to Hit You Upside the Head with a Two-by-Four


This morning in the Noo Yak Times, channeling The Onion:

In North Carolina, hurricanes did what scientists could not: Convince Republicans that climate change is real: A poll shows that 37 percent of Republicans in the state believe global warming is “very likely” to negatively impact North Carolina coastal communities in the next 50 years. That is nearly triple the percentage who felt that way in 2017.