You know the PR options are bad when “botched rendition resulting in death” is the go-to choice.

I still can’t understand why they would have done this at the consulate. The Saudis must have had reason to believe that the Turks would keep their secret if they discovered it. That’s the missing puzzle piece in all this — why did Erdogan allow the truth about Khashoggi to be exposed?

Per CNN, evidently they’re going to try to argue with a straight face that a dissident’s death inside the walls of the Saudi diplomatic outpost was done without authorization from on high.

The Saudis are preparing a report that will acknowledge Jamal Khashoggi’s death was the result of an interrogation that went wrong — one that was intended to lead to his abduction from Turkey, according to two sources.

One source says the report will likely conclude that the operation was carried out without clearance and transparency and that those involved will be held responsible.

Quite a coinkydink that POTUS was floating a “rogue killers” theory to the media this morning. Presumably he was already briefed on the Saudi report. Or maybe the U.S. (and Turkey?) helped the Saudis write it. The obvious endgame for all countries was to somehow have the Saudis admit fault while quarantining the crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, from culpability so that diplomatic relations — and arms sales — could continue more or less normally. And whaddaya know, that’s exactly what the draft report seems designed to achieve.

The best evidence that they really did intend to kidnap and remove Khashoggi from the country is the number of Saudi agents allegedly involved in the operation. Fifteen people seems like significant overkill for murdering a civilian and disposing of his body, but maybe not for drugging him, maintaining his vitals while he’s unconscious, transporting him surreptitiously to the airport, removing evidence, and so forth. But there’s also evidence against the rendition theory. I linked this on Friday but it’s worth linking again:

One of the 15 Saudis named by Turkish officials as being involved in the disappearance of a journalist last seen entering a diplomatic consulate in Istanbul is a forensic expert known for pioneering rapid and mobile autopsies, according to Arab media reports and his own academic writings. Salah Muhammed al-Tubaigy flew into Istanbul shortly after Washington Post contributor Jamal Khashoggi entered the Saudi consulate and flew out nine hours later, Turkish officials say.

The alleged presence of Tubaigy, who has taught and published papers on gathering DNA evidence and dissecting human bodies, amplifies a macabre narrative put forth by Turkish investigators that a team of Saudis killed Khashoggi and then dismembered his body to conceal the murder.

I’d like to hear more on the timeline. Was Tubaigy already en route when Khashoggi entered the building, suggesting a premeditated murder plot, or did he get on the plane after Khashoggi arrived, which might support a scenario in which he died accidentally and a “rapid autopsy” expert to dismember the body was suddenly needed? Also, exactly how often does something go wrong when the Saudis drug and kidnap people? This surely isn’t their first rodeo. Also, remember that WaPo’s sources claim the Turks have audio of Khashoggi being interrogated, beaten, and “murdered,” which, while not specific, suggests something more dramatic than oops-too-much-sedative.

But then you circle back to evidence supporting the “botched interrogation” theory. It’s exceptionally weird that the Saudis would have chosen the consulate as the place to move against Khashoggi, knowing that there’s video surveillance of the entrance that the building’s likely bugged by Turkey, and that it’s maybe the only place in Istanbul where Saudi responsibility for his fate couldn’t be denied. Would they really intentionally kill him inside their own consulate, knowing the sort of sh*tstorm that might result? Why not remove him to a safe house somewhere?

The Kingdom finally granted Turkish police access to the consulate and the consul-general’s home to search, which may or may not mean that Khashoggi’s remains are about to be uncovered. Clearly they fear that the Turks will find something incriminating there per the timing of the report that CNN is hearing about. If the jig will soon be up, might as well confess. Imagine what’s going through the minds of the “rogue” agents who carried out this operation on orders from above, now realizing that they’re likely to be sacrificed so as to preserve plausible deniability for the crown prince. Exit question via a Twitter pal: If this was a botched rendition, what was the Saudis’ imagined endgame for Khashoggi? They were going to bring him back to the Kingdom and imprison him indefinitely, I assume? If they ever let him go he’d obviously tell all. The operation had to end in death, either short-term or long-term.