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Lindsey Graham: There’ll be “hell to pay” if the Saudis murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi

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No, there won’t, and I speak for pretty much everyone in saying that. If 9/11 didn’t break America’s devil’s bargain with the Saudis, nothing will. Graham *does* seem pretty fired up here, though. Post-Kavanaugh, anger may be his default mood.

Khashoggi is, or perhaps was, a Saudi journalist who left the Kingdom last year and made the dangerous career move of writing articles criticizing its new ruler, Mohammed bin Salman. Salman is a young royal who’s spent the beginning of his reign courting the west with promises of reform and liberalization. If in fact Khashoggi ended up murdered on his orders, in a diplomatic facility no less, all of that is up in smoke.

The latest word from the Times’s sources is that not only was Khashoggi killed in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, where he was last seen trying to paperwork so that he could remarry, he was hacked up afterward and carted out in pieces.

The official described a quick and complex operation in which Mr. Khashoggi was killed within two hours of his arrival at the consulate by a team of Saudi agents, who dismembered his body with a bone saw they brought for the purpose.

“It is like ‘Pulp Fiction,’” the official said.

Surveillance cameras outside the consulate captured him entering the building but not leaving. There are reports, cited by the Times, that the Saudis videotaped the murder and that the evidence is now in Turkey’s possession. A Turkish paper aligned with Erdogan’s government claimed today that no fewer than 15 Saudi intelligence agents were part of the team that dispatched Khashoggi, with Turkish intelligence supposedly aware of which flights carried the team in and out of the country per video footage of the suspects moving through the airport. One member of the team, allegedly, is an “autopsy expert.”

The Turks say Khashoggi’s dead. The Saudis insist that Khashoggi left the consulate at some point but don’t have video evidence to prove it. A source told the Daily Mail today that he’s alive but has been captured and taken back to Saudi Arabia. Six vehicles were seen leaving the consulate at 4 p.m. on the day Khashoggi disappeared, with two of them driving just a few hundred yards to the Saudi consul’s evidence, where they remained for hours. “Investigators suspect Mr. Khashoggi was in one of these vehicles,” notes the NYT’s timeline of events, adding that “Turkish staff members of the residence were unexpectedly told not to report for work that day.” The possibility exists that Khashoggi was butchered inside the home of the city’s top Saudi diplomat. The latest as I write this is that authorities are trying to zero in on Khashoggi’s movements via the Apple Watch he was wearing when he disappeared.

The motive here is obvious. Like all autocrats, Salman doesn’t like being criticized, particularly in front of the western audiences he’s trying to woo. Like many autocrats, he’s apparently ruthless enough to deal with his critics in the harshest way possible. What’s not obvious, though, is the M.O. If the Saudis were going to assassinate Khashoggi, why would they do it in a way that not only smashes international norms for diplomatic outposts but leaves their fingerprints all over it?

You can understand sending a large team if the target is being approached somewhere abroad in an unfamiliar location, when all sorts of complications might arise. Khashoggi was set to walk into their own consulate, though. It would have been easier for Salman to deny official knowledge of the plot once if he was killed elsewhere, or if it involved only one or two people (“rogue intelligence officers!”). It also makes no sense to send 15 agents to Turkey to kill him but not someone of the same age and build as Khashoggi to put on his clothes after he was dead and walk out of the consulate in view of the surveillance cameras, to “prove” that he left alive. And why the fark would the murder have been recorded, as is alleged, creating potential smoking-gun evidence against the government if it got out? The plot seems sinisterly overdone and embarrassingly underdone at the same time.

And because it is, both the U.S. and Turkey are in a bind over how to deal with it. Standing up for human rights abroad, particularly the right of dissident journalists to criticize a nominal ally like Salman, is not in Trump’s foreign-policy comfort zone. Ask him about Putin murdering journalists and his instinct is to whatabout you by reminding you that the U.S. has committed plenty of misdeeds too. “I know nothing. I know what everybody else knows,” he said yesterday, adding dismissively, “I don’t like hearing about it, and hopefully that will sort itself out.” After another day of media uproar about Khashoggi’s disappearance and a personal appeal to the president from Khashoggi’s fiancee, though, he was more forceful today: “We cannot let this happen to reporters, to anybody.” But what can he do, realistically? Break ties with the Kingdom? The alliance with Saudi Arabia is part of Team Trump’s anti-Iran strategy, a policy supported uniformly by his natsec team that extends all the way to U.S. support for the Saudis’ hot war with Yemen. And Jared Kushner has practiced personal diplomacy with Salman, flying to Riyadh to chat him up late last year. An interesting passage from an Intercept story about the meeting back in March:

What exactly Kushner and the Saudi royal talked about in Riyadh may be known only to them, but after the meeting, Crown Prince Mohammed told confidants that Kushner had discussed the names of Saudis disloyal to the crown prince, according to three sources who have been in contact with members of the Saudi and Emirati royal families since the crackdown. Kushner, through his attorney’s spokesperson, denies having done so.

Did Khashoggi’s name come up? As if that wasn’t awkward enough for Trump, here’s a detail featured in WaPo’s story about Khashoggi’s disappearance today:L

Before Khashoggi’s disappearance, U.S. intelligence intercepted communications of Saudi officials discussing a plan to capture him, according to two people familiar with the information. The Saudis wanted to lure Khashoggi back to Saudi Arabia and lay hands on him there, the people said. It is not clear whether the United States warned Khashoggi that he was a target, the people said.

If the U.S. didn’t warn him, why didn’t they warn him?

Graham, I think, is on the level with his displeasure, and I also think it’s precisely because of moments like this that he spends so much time ingratiating himself to Trump. It’s not because he wants to be attorney general, it’s because he wants to maximize his leverage with POTUS to push a McCainian liberal internationalist approach to foreign-policy crises. We’ll see if Trump listens to him. In the meantime, if I were Iran’s leaders I’d be thinking about some outreach to the White House. Tension with the Saudis is a perfect moment for the mullahs to see if they can’t turn an anti-Iran stance by the White House into an Iran-curious stance. Trump’s proved with North Korea that he’s receptive to grand diplomatic gestures that let him boast about how unprecedented his presidency is. Why not make one while America’s fo-po establishment is momentarily angry at Salman?

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The robot dog that will murder you will also dance on your grave

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To cleanse the palate, obviously I don’t know if there’ll be “graves” as such after the robot apocalypse. I assume it’ll depend on their olfactory capabilities. If they’re not equipped to detect scent, maybe the ‘bots will just leave us where we lie to decay in the sun, our streets transformed into rivers of putrefied viscera from the sheer mass of leaking carcasses.

It’s my great privilege to share thoughts like that with you at the end of a long day.

I’m curious about what possessed Boston Dynamics to put this clip together. Could be nothing more than boredom or a creative way to show off Spot’s motor skills. But I wonder if all the freaky-deaky videos of humanoid robots demonstrating ever more impressive feats of mobility has created a strange sort of PR problem for them. They don’t want every promo they do to seem menacing, however inadvertently. Soon they’ll have people breaking into their factory, trying to stop them before they build the first T-800. Time to do something whimsical instead.

This thing is set to go on sale next year, by the way. Not to everyday consumers; the price tag will likely ensure that it remains a corporate plaything. But you’ll be seeing them around sooner than you think. Plus, some ultra-rich tech bros are destined to buy them and show them off as look-what-I-got novelties. We all know who the first one will be.

Weird but true: In a few decades’ time, this thing shaking its ass in your face as it does a victory twerk might be the last thing you ever see.

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WOW! Claire McCaskill Speaks Out After Project Veritas Reveals She’s a Complete Fraud — Lies and Blames Hawley (VIDEO)

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James O’Keefe strikes again!

On Monday evening, Project Veritas released an undercover video of endangered Missouri Democrat Senator Claire McCaskill admitting to being deceptive about her stance on firearms and immigration policies.

McCaskill is a red-state Democrat Senator so she has to appear pro 2nd Amendment to her constituents because Missourians love their guns.

Claire McCaskill’s staffers were also caught on video saying she puts on a moderate front to get the Republican votes.

The top staffer then continued saying McCaskill believes everything Obama does.

THIS WAS A DEVASTATING VIDEO! Claire McCaskill was COMPLETELY EXPOSED!

Senator McCaskill’s staffers admitted she is pro-DACA, pro-DREAMERS and against the border wall even though she runs ads to the contrary claiming she is strong on border security.
The Project Veritas Video has been viewed over 267,000 times so far!

On Tuesday morning Claire McCaskill responded to the stunning revelations.
McCaskill went on Ozarks First to try to dig herself out of this deep hole.


Claire lied some more, blamed Josh Hawley for the undercover video.

Senator McCaskill: I’ve been very up front about all my positions. I remember this person was trying to get me to say something different than what my positions are… It is startling that Josh Hawley would be part of fraudulently embedding something in my campaign.

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Coincidence or corruption? In Andrew Cuomo’s government it’s hard to tell

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Given the parade of people in the orbit of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo who have recently either been shipped off to jail or come under investigation, it’s amazing that none of the dirt ever sticks to Cuomo himself. How does he account for the various people who funneled money toward his campaign, and then were later discovered to have benefitted from state government “generosity” and wound up in handcuffs? It’s all just a coincidence.

Today we’re hearing news of yet another of these amazing coincidences. This story starts with a situation we first covered more than a year ago and it dealt with some donors who helped Cuomo out during his 2014 campaign. A medical corporation named Crystal Run Healthcare was run by a few people who had funneled more than $400K to Cuomo’s campaigns over the previous four years. When the “Buffalo Billion” was announced (a plan to invest a billion dollars of taxpayer money into projects creating jobs in the western, upstate region) Crytal Run was at the front of the line. They wound up receiving more than $25M dollars for two new medical centers.

But there were some fishy elements to the story. First of all, they had actually broken ground on both of those new projects six months before the grants were even announced or applications were being taken. It’s almost as if they knew they had the money coming from somewhere. Then we found out that the Crystal Run had coughed up a flurry of maximum donations only weeks before the checks to them were cut. In addition to that, there was a meeting held less than two weeks after the announcement of the grants where Crystal Run executives met with state officials, including a top aide from inside Cuomo’s office.

How did Cuomo explain it? It was all just a happy coincidence and the meeting didn’t matter because they didn’t even talk about the grants. The meeting was about Medicaid.

But now the local press has gotten hold of emails from Crystal Run showing that they did indeed discuss their two new developments and the grants, and that the state representatives at the meeting were “very receptive” to their requests. (NY Post)

Now, despite earlier denials from everyone involved, it turns out company execs got a private sitdown with top state officials in 2015, just 12 days after Albany started seeking applications for $1.2 billion in development grants. Crystal Run wound up with $25.4 million of that (the only for-profit company to qualify) for two projects.

Team Cuomo insists those projects never even got mentioned at the meeting, saying it was only about Medicaid. Yet the Albany Times Union reports that an e-mail sent two weeks later by Crystal Run’s chief legal officer stressed that company execs had “shared our vision for growth,” including the two “expansions,” with the health commissioner and a top aide who worked in Cuomo’s office.

Both officials, the e-mail noted, “were, obviously, supportive, as we are bringing real jobs to real people” — and had agreed that “further discussion was warranted” with the state economic-development agency “at the highest levels.”

How much more evidence do we need at this point? Cuomo’s spokespeople obviously lied about what went on at that meeting. They have records from the company who benefitted from it after making massive contributions. (Two of the people involved in organizing these meetings, donations, and windfalls have already been convicted or indicted on related charges.) And yet Andrew Cuomo continues to insist that all the grants were handled fairly and above board. These are all just amazing coincidences. And somehow, while his closest aides head off to the crowbar motel, Cuomo floats along and prosecutors can’t seem to lay a glove on him. On top of that, he’s on track to cruise to electoral victory for another four years in office.

I guess that’s just a happy coincidence too, eh?

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