Pompeo fires Khashoggi as ‘activist’ whose murder was exaggerated by the media

In a new book, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo scoffs at the idea that Jamal Khashoggi, a contributing Washington Post columnist who was brutally murdered in 2018, was a journalist. Instead, Pompeo is sympathetic to Mohammed bin Salman, the crown prince of Saudi Arabia who was found to have ordered Khashoggi’s assassination, and has long defended the US relationship with Saudi Arabia.

In “Never Give an Inch: Fighting for the America I Love,” released Tuesday, Pompeo says Khashoggi did not deserve to die, calling his killing “shocking, unacceptable, horrible.” However, he goes on for several more pages to mock the “disproportionate global uproar” over Khashoggi’s death, arguing that Khashoggi was an “activist”, not a journalist, whose death was “hammered out of proportion” by an overly sympathetic outlet.

“Just as the media spent years trying to drive a wedge between me and President Trump, they spent the weeks that followed trying to sever the United States’ relationship with Saudi Arabia,” Pompeo wrote.

“The progressive left hates MBS,” he wrote, using a common nickname for Mohammed, “even though he is leading the biggest cultural reform in the kingdom’s history. He will prove to be one of the greatest leaders of his time, a truly historic figure on the world stage.”

Khashoggi was assassinated on October 2, 2018 while visiting the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul to obtain the documents that would allow him to marry his fiancée, Hatice Cengiz. Saudi agents dismembered Khashoggi’s body inside the consulate and his remains have never been found.

In the months leading up to that visit, Khashoggi had been writing columns for The Post harshly criticizing the crown prince, who effectively rules Saudi Arabia and has carried out a harsh crackdown on rivals and dissidents.

Pompeo, who is reportedly exploring a 2024 presidential run, also made the claim in his book that Khashoggi was “at ease with the Muslim Brotherhood supporting terrorists,” an accusation that Khashoggi’s family, and Khashoggi, when he was alive, they repeatedly denied.

“Jamal Khashoggi was not a dangerous person in any possible way,” Khashoggi’s family told The Post in 2018. “To claim otherwise would be ridiculous.”

On October 2, 2018, Saudi agents killed Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul. What has been done afterwards? (Video: Joyce Lee, Thomas LeGro, Dalton Bennett, John Parks/The Washington Post)

As The Post reported after Khashoggi’s death, that claim was pushed by the crown prince, who spoke on the phone with President Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner and then-national security adviser John Bolton in the days after. to the disappearance of Khashoggi. The crown prince told Kushner and Bolton that Khashoggi was a dangerous Islamist and urged Kushner and Bolton to preserve the US-Saudi alliance.

The CIA concluded in 2018 that Mohammed had ordered Khashoggi’s assassination, contradicting Saudi Arabia’s insistence that the crown prince had no prior knowledge of the plot. Yet in his book, Pompeo, who previously served as CIA director, seems to give Mohammed the benefit of the doubt about the US’s own intelligence agencies.

“First, contrary to what has been reported, there is almost no intelligence directly linking MBS to the assassination order,” Pompeo wrote. “Second, I met with many people who had ordered assassinations. If it was proven that MBS had ordered this, it would have only meant that he was one more ruthless leader in a pretty damn ruthless part of the world.”

In a statement on Tuesday, Fred Ryan, editor and chief executive of The Post, said it was “shocking and disappointing” to see Pompeo’s book “so outrageously misrepresent” Khashoggi’s life and work.

“His only crime was exposing corruption and oppression among those in power, work that good journalists around the world do every day,” Ryan wrote. “Jamal was dedicated to the values ​​of free speech and press freedom and held himself to the highest professional standards. For this devotion, he paid the highest price.

“It is shameful that Pompeo would spread vile falsehoods to dishonor the life and service of a brave man, and his commitment to the principles Americans hold dear, as a ploy to sell books,” Ryan added.

In November, the Biden administration determined that Mohammed, as the “acting head of government,” was immune from a lawsuit brought in the United States by Khashoggi’s fiancée and a human rights organization he founded.

In a letter accompanying the filing, State Department Acting Legal Counsel Richard C. Visek said the decision was legal and that the department “does not rule on the merits of this lawsuit and reiterates its unequivocal condemnation of the heinous murder of Jamal Khashoggi”.

Karen DeYoung, Missy Ryan, John Hudson, Souad Mekhennet, and Carol D. Leonnig contributed to this report.

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