Newly released surveillance footage appears to show a man leaving the site of the death of Jamal Khashoggi, a 59-year-old Washington Post columnist, wearing the same clothes as the dead journalist and a fake beard in an attempt to impersonate him.
CNN reported that the "body double," Mustafa al-Madani, is a Saudi operative, one of a team of 15 sent to murder Khashoggi at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul and cover it up. According to the footage, al-Madani arrived at the consulate on Oct. 2 wearing a plaid shirt and jeans hours before Khashoggi's arrival. Turkish investigators believe he was wearing the exact clothes that Khashoggi had on his body when he died, except for his shoes, according to CNN.
In the footage, al-Madani leaves the consulate with a companion and heads to the Blue Mosque, a popular tourist destination, where he changes into his original clothes in a restroom. He later removes his fake beard at a restaurant and throws the journalist's clothes in a dumpster.
Khashoggi, who lived in the US, had come to the Saudi Consulate for marriage paperwork, and his fiancé was waiting for him outside. He was never seen again. In the weeks since his disappearance, Turkish media reported that Khashoggi was tortured, killed, and eventually dismembered inside.
Onboard Air Force One Monday, President Trump told USA Today that he believed the killing was "a plot gone awry" and that it was "foolish and stupid." He went on to say he would continue to oppose efforts to cancel a multibillion-dollar arms deal with Saudi Arabia. He said he had spoken to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman about the killing and believed more details about it would come to light in the coming days. The crown prince again denied his involvement, Trump said.
The Washington Post reported that a Saudi diplomat said that the body double wearing the wrong shoes led the government to not release the footage.
The use of a double suggests the plan to kill Khashoggi was premeditated and casts further doubt on Saudi Arabia's story about the death of the journalist, which has changed repeatedly.
The kingdom initially denied Khashoggi was dead but refused to make any evidence public. On Saturday, the Saudi public prosecutor said that Khashoggi had died in a "fistfight" within the consulate. Then on Sunday, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said Khashoggi's death was the result of a "rogue operation," and blamed the government's initial denial of his death on a "cover-up." Critics have accused the kingdom of trying to shield the crown prince from blame.
"The individuals who did this did this outside the scope of their authority," the foreign minister said on Fox News. "There obviously was a tremendous mistake made, and what compounded the mistake was the attempt to try to cover up."
The Washington Post called Saudi Arabia's previous story that Khashoggi died in a fight "utterly devoid of credibility."
Erdogan has promised a detailed account of Khashoggi's death “will be revealed in all its nakedness” in an address to the Turkish parliament on Tuesday. That's the same day that a high-profile business and technology conference planned by the crown prince is slated to begin. Multiple technology and business leaders have declined to attend the conference as the scandal over Khashoggi's death has grown. US lawmakers have also called for a reassessment of relations with Saudi Arabia.
Jared Kushner, who has cultivated a close relationship with the crown prince, said Monday that he had advised Prince Mohammed to be transparent in the investigation but refused to say whether he believed the kingdom's story. Kushner said the Trump administration was still in the "fact-finding" phase of the investigation.