Mar 17, 2019

NYT: Saudi prince authorized secret crackdowns carried out by Khashoggi killers

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

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 1 a.m. ET: 664,695 — Total deaths: 30,847 — Total recoveries: 140,156.
  2. U.S.: Leads the world in cases. Total confirmed cases as of 1 a.m. ET: 124,464 — Total deaths: 2,191 — Total recoveries: 1,095.
  3. Federal government latest: President Trump announces new travel advisories for New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, but rules out quarantine enforcement. Per the CDC, residents of those states must now "refrain from non-essential domestic travel for 14 days," with the exception of critical infrastructure industry workers.
  4. State updates: Alaska is latest state to issue a stay-at-home order — New York is trying to nearly triple its hospital capacity in less than a month and has moved its presidential primary to June 23. Some Midwestern swing voters who backed Trump's handling of the virus less than two weeks ago are balking at his call for the U.S. to be "opened up" by Easter.
  5. World updates: In Spain, over 1,400 people were confirmed dead between Thursday to Saturday.
  6. 🚀 Space updates: OneWeb filed for bankruptcy amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.
  7. Hollywood: Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson have returned to U.S. after being treated for coronavirus.
  8. What should I do? Answers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingQ&A: Minimizing your coronavirus risk
  9. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it.

Subscribe to Mike Allen's Axios AM to follow our coronavirus coverage each morning from your inbox.

Coronavirus updates: Global death toll tops 30,000

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's Health Ministry. Note: China numbers are for the mainland only and U.S. numbers include repatriated citizens and confirmed plus presumptive cases from the CDC

The novel coronavirus has now killed more than 30,000 people around the world — with Italy reporting over 10,000 deaths, per Johns Hopkins data.

The big picture: The number of deaths from COVID-19 in the U.S. surpassed 2,000 on Saturday. The United States leads the world in confirmed coronavirus infections — more than 124,000 by late Saturday. The number of those recovered from the virus in the U.S. passed the 1,000-mark on Saturday evening.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 3 hours ago - Health

Trump rules out quarantine in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut after pushback

President Trump on the White House grounds on Saturdya. Photo: Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images

President Trump tweeted Saturday night that he's decided not to introduce quarantine enforcement measures fo New York, New Jersey and parts of Connecticut, but a "strong" travel advisory will be issued for those states. The CDC later announced domestic travel restrictions for the states.

Why it matters: Trump said hours earlier he was considering quarantine measures to combat the rise in novel coronavirus cases. But he received pushback, notably from New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D), who told CNN such a measure would cause "chaos." "This would be a federal declaration of war on states," Cuomo added.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 5 hours ago - Health