Translation: “We all need a few more days to come up with a mutually agreeable cover story.”

I understand the realpolitik approach to Khashoggi’s murder but we should be able to manage that without forcing the Secretary of State to look like a schmuck by condoning the prime suspect taking the lead in investigating a murder. Under no circumstances, after all, will their investigation honestly answer the main question. The mystery in this murder isn’t whodunnit or why, the mystery is simply whether it was done on the say-so of the crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman.

According to the Times, U.S. intelligence has no direct evidence of bin Salman’s guilt but increasingly believes there’s no way the particular people involved would have done something like this without his approval:

But intelligence agencies have growing circumstantial evidence of the prince’s involvement — including the presence of members of his security detail and intercepts of Saudi officials discussing a possible plan to detain Mr. Khashoggi, according to American officials.

Officials have also said the prince’s complete control over the security services makes it highly unlikely that an operation would have been undertaken without his knowledge.

Bob Corker has been trying to get access to that intelligence assessment but so far the White House has been guarding it tightly, as chance would have it. Other intel pros tell WaPo that Saudi officers wouldn’t have freelanced an operation like this:

“It’s inconceivable that an operation using royal guards, other court officials and the consulate was not authorized by the crown prince. That’s not how the kingdom functions, especially with MBS as heir apparent,” said Bruce Riedel, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and an expert on Saudi Arabia and the royal family who served more than 30 years at the CIA…

“[MBS] has a reputation as a very hands-on manager,” said Jon B. Alterman, the director of the Middle East program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. He noted that the crown prince has been directly involved in the implementation of new policies and leads an ambitious effort to diversify the Saudi economy.

A pro-Erdogan Turkish paper published a still photo from surveillance footage of the Saudi consulate today of one of MBS’s top lackeys strolling into the building just a few hours before Khashoggi was due to arrive. Other still photos show him at the airport skipping town that same day. Basic logic: Murdering a critic of the crown prince like Khashoggi who has ties to the United States obviously would have had so many potential repercussions for bin Salman personally and the Kingdom internationally that security officials wouldn’t have dared do it without his knowledge. Had they done so they might have paid with their lives for taking such a risk even if the plot had come off without a hitch. To do it at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, knowing that a rival power like Turkey would likely be eavesdropping and would use the material against MBS, would have made it that much more outlandish and transgressive. It would have been a suicide mission for them once bin Salman found out. They must have sought his permission beforehand.

It may have been a suicide mission for them anyway, though, as MBS now looks to tie up loose ends. I had the same thought Sonny Bunch did when reading this: The coda to “Layla” is beginning to play.

A suspect in the disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi and member of the Saudi Royal Air Force has died in a car accident in Riyadh, the Turkish pro-government Yeni Şafak newspaper said on Thursday.

It did not say what role Mashal Saad al-Bostani may have played in the alleged killing of Khashoggi, nor did it report any details about the traffic crash. Bostani was one of the 15 suspects Turkey identified who landed in Istanbul on Oct. 2, the day that Khashoggi disappeared, and left the same day after visiting the Saudi consulate.

A fatal car accident for one of the alleged perpetrators, just as international allies are demanding accountability from the Saudis. What are the odds?