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How Will the Republican Conference Help Trump Try to Cover Up the Saudi Torture-Killing?

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One popular method will be the full Bart O’Kavanaugh — just smear the victim:

Hard-line Republicans and conservative commentators are mounting a dark whisper campaign against Jamal Khashoggi that is designed to protect President Trump from criticism of his handling of the dissident journalist’s alleged murder by Saudi Arabian operatives — and support Trump’s continued aversion to a forceful response to the oil-rich desert kingdom.

In recent days, a cadre of conservative House Republicans allied with Trump has been privately exchanging articles from right-wing outlets that fuel suspicion of Khashoggi, highlighting his association with the Muslim Brotherhood during his youth and raising conspiratorial questions about his work decades ago as an embedded reporter covering Osama bin Laden, according to four GOP officials involved in the discussions who were not authorized to speak publicly.

Those aspersions — which many lawmakers have been wary of stating publicly due to the political risks of doing so — have begun to flare into public view as conservative media outlets have amplified the claims, which are aimed in part in protecting Trump as he works to preserve the U.S.-Saudi relationship and avoid confronting the Saudis on human rights.

“Khashoggi was tied to the Muslim Brotherhood,” Fox News anchor Harris Faulkner asserted on Thursday’s highly rated “Outnumbered” show. “I just put it out there because it is in the constellation of things that are being talked about.” Faulkner then dismissed another guest who called her claim “iffy.”

The message was echoed on the campaign trail. Virginia Republican Corey A. Stewart, who is challenging Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), told a local radio program Thursday that “Khashoggi was not a good guy himself.”

Also, Squi says he does not recall seeing Saudi agents dismember someone alive at a consulate in Istanbul, which if I understand the Republican Rules of Evidence correctly is dispositive proof that it didn’t happen.

Then there’s the even more-well tested “yeah, the Trump/Saudi story doesn’t seem super-credible, but what do you think I am, a powerful legislator or something?”

The fact that the administration is conspiring in the dissemination of a lie has all kinds of implications. One of them is likely the violation of normal policy making — after all, the United States government has a foreign policy and intelligence bureaucracy designed to produce factual analyses, so burying the correct conclusions in order to produce fabricated ones is probably going to entail some shenanigans, if not outright illegality. Another Washington Post story reports that, according to Senator Bob Corker, the administration has “clamped down” on sharing intelligence with Congress, and that a scheduled briefing on the matter had been cancelled. Corker called these moves “disappointing.”

Well, yes, they are disappointing. But Corker is not some man on the street offering his opinions on the issue. He’s the Foreign Relations Committee chairman of the U.S. Senate, which is part of a co-equal branch of government. If the administration cancels a briefing, Corker has more powerful recourse than expressing his disappointment to the Post. He can schedule a hearing. He can issue subpoenas. Corker has not so much rejected these options as treated them as unimaginable.

The saga of Khashoggi’s apparent murder touches on the U.S.’s relationship with a gulf kingdom whose value has gone unscrutinized for a long time, and on Trump’s evident lack of any public ethics whatsoever. But it is also a story about the Republican Congress’s refusal to conduct oversight — a refusal embedded so deeply in the party’s mind that it is impossible to find Republicans even mulling an alternative.

I’m beginning to wonder if #NeverTrump is ever going to become a powerful faction in the Republican Party.

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