Updated Oct 16, 2018

Trump: Khashoggi case another instance of "guilty until proven innocent"

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

President Trump has told the Associated Press that Saudi Arabia being blamed for the disappearance and assumed killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi is "another case of 'guilty until proven innocent.'"

The big picture: The Saudis and Trump administration each have incentives to stop this from becoming a lasting crisis. The U.S.-Saudi relationship survived 9/11 and is unlikely to end over the situation surrounding Khashoggi, but the evidence against Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) is increasingly hard to ignore.

Driving the news today:

  • Turkey turned over the passport information of 7 of the 15 Saudis suspected in Khashoggi's killing to the Washington Post, which blurred the photos and names before running them online.
  • U.N. human rights chief Michelle Bachelet has asked the Saudis to forgo usual diplomatic privilege in order to facilitate the investigation. (Neither the Saudis nor the U.S. are likely to have any interest in this request.)
  • Sen. Lindsey Graham said on Fox & Friends this morning that "toxic" MBS "can never be a leader on the world stage" and that sanctions are coming, no matter what Trump does.

Between the lines: Trump has now twice appeared to take Saudi denials about Khashoggi's disappearance at face value:

  • Trump today: "Just spoke with the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia who totally denied any knowledge of what took place in their Turkish Consulate. He ... told me that he has already started, and will rapidly expand, a full and complete investigation into this matter."
  • Trump yesterday: "[T]he King firmly denied any knowledge of it. He didn’t really know.  Maybe — I don’t want to get into his mind — but it sounded to me like maybe these could have been rogue killers. ... All I can do is report what he told me. And he told me in a very firm way that they had no knowledge of it. He said it very strongly."

What's at stake:

  • "Officials said the dilemma comes at a fraught moment for the Trump administration, which is expected to reimpose harsh sanctions against Iran on Nov. 5, with the intent of cutting off all Iranian oil exports." [NYT]
  • MBS is aggressively courting U.S. and Western investments, hoping to diversify his country's finances beyond oil revenues.
  • The Saudis are major importers of U.S. weapons, and they will be wary of potential sanctions.

The bottom line: This story is hurtling to a public conclusion, regardless of whether the Saudis decide to be forthcoming.

Go deeper

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 3 p.m. ET: 766,336 — Total deaths: 36,873 — Total recoveries: 160,001.
  2. U.S.: Leads the world in confirmed cases. Total confirmed cases as of 3 p.m. ET: 153,246 — Total deaths: 2,828 — Total recoveries: 5,545.
  3. Federal government latest: The White House will extend its social distancing guidelines until April 30 — Rep. Nydia Velázquez diagnosed with "presumed" coronavirus infection.
  4. State updates: Virginia and Maryland issued stay-at-home orders to residents, joining 28 other states — Florida megachurch pastor arrested for refusing to call off mass services.
  5. World updates: Italy reports 1,590 recoveries from the virus, its highest ever.
  6. In photos: Navy hospital ship arrives in Manhattan
  7. What should I do? Answers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingQ&A: Minimizing your coronavirus risk
  8. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it.

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Cuomo: Engaging in politics during coronavirus crisis is "anti-American"

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said during a Monday press briefing that he won't get into a political tussle with President Trump — calling it "counterproductive" and "anti-American" — as his state deals with the most confirmed coronavirus cases in the country.

The backdrop: Trump said during an appearance on "Fox & Friends" earlier Monday that Cuomo has received high polling numbers during the outbreak because New York has received federal aid.

Maryland and Virginia issue coronavirus stay-at-home orders

Data: Axios reporting; Map: Danielle Alberti/Axios

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan and Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam issued stay-at-home orders on Monday, with exceptions for residents engaged in essential services, including health care and government functions.

The big picture: The states are the latest to announce policies to enforce social distancing, which have affected almost 250 million Americans. More than 1.5 billion people worldwide had been asked to stay home as of last week.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 2 hours ago - Health