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Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Photo: Fayez Nureldine/AFP via Getty Images

Beginning in 2017, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) authorized a secret campaign to crack down on dissidents, with at least a dozen of the operations carried out by members of the same team that murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi, the New York Times reports, citing "American officials who have read classified intelligence reports about the campaign."

Details: The operations reportedly involved the kidnapping, detention, torture and, in some cases, the forced repatriation of Saudi citizens living abroad. Sources tell the Times that the team — known to American officials as the Saudi Rapid Intervention Group — was so busy that it requested holiday bonuses from a top adviser to MBS last June.

Why it matters: After a series of evolving explanations, the Saudi government ultimately settled on the narrative that Khashoggi's murder was a "rogue operation" gone wrong and is now in the process of prosecuting 11 members of the team. This report suggests that the Khashoggi episode was not an isolated case, but rather "a particularly egregious part of a wider campaign to silence Saudi dissidents."

The big picture: In February, President Trump refused to meet a congressional deadline for providing a report about who was responsible for Khashoggi's death. This follows a pattern of Trump refusing to condemn MBS — whom his administration has positioned as a key strategic ally — even in the face of reports that U.S. intelligence has concluded the young prince directly ordered the operation.

Go deeper

17 mins ago - Health

Johnson & Johnson to resume COVID vaccine rollout in Europe

Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

Johnson & Johnson announced Tuesday it would resume the rollout of its coronavirus vaccine in Europe after the European Medicines Agency (EMA) said unusual blood clots should be listed as a "very rare" side effect of the company's vaccine, but that the benefits of the shot still outweigh the risks.

Why it matters: Johnson & Johnson was set to send 50 million doses of its one-shot coronavirus vaccine to the European Union before it delayed it's European rollout earlier in April "out of an abundance of caution" over rare blood clotting events.

Biden says "right verdict" in Chauvin trial is "overwhelming"

President Biden told reporters Tuesday that he's "come to know" George Floyd's family and that he's "praying the verdict is the right verdict" in Derek Chauvin's trial, as the nation awaits the jury's decision.

Why it matters: Officials fear a not-guilty decision in the high-profile case could inflame racial tensions and set off a new wave of riots. The jury was sequestered and entered deliberation after closing arguments on Monday.