An alleged Saudi plot to cover up the killing of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi went awry after a suspected Khashoggi “body double” wore the wrong shoes, a diplomat familiar with the matter told The Washington Post, according to an article published Monday.
The report came shortly after CNN published footage that appeared to show a man exiting the Saudi consulate in Istanbul Oct. 2 wearing a fake beard and glasses, as well as the pants, shirt and jacket that Khashoggi was seen wearing when he entered the building earlier in the day. The man was also captured on video at The Blue Mosque, a historic mosque and tourist attraction in the city.
The Saudi government has provided conflicting explanations for Khashoggi’s killing. For more than two weeks, officials claimed to have no involvement in Khashoggi’s disappearance. Over the weekend, state media reversed course, saying that Khashoggi was killed by accident in a fistfight involving a number of Saudi intelligence operatives.
A Turkish official told CNN that the body double was used as a decoy, posing as the journalist to bolster the country’s case that it was not involved in Khashoggi’s killing.
According to The Washington Post report, that plan was soured by a sartorial mishap. In the video footage, the purported body double, identified as Mustafa al-Madani, is wearing different shoes than Khashoggi wore when he entered the consulate.
“It was a flawed body double, so it never became an official part of the Saudi government’s narrative,” the diplomat told the Post.
Madani is suspected of working for a Saudi intelligence agency, the Post reported. He appeared in New York earlier this year ahead of a diplomatic visit from Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
The Saudi embassy in Washington did not respond to a request for comment from CNBC.
The video footage provides more evidence that Khashoggi’s killing was premeditated and also further implicates Crown Prince Mohammed, who has cultivated a close relationship with members of the Trump administration, including White House senior advisor Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law.
Amid the uproar in Washington and around the world over the killing of Khashoggi, who was a contributor to The Washington Post’s opinion section, the White House has been divided over how to handle its response.
President Donald Trump, who has been hesitant to take action that could disturb the close bilateral relationship, or threaten U.S. arms sales to the country, has been more outwardly critical of the Saudis in recent days. He said in an interview with the Post on Saturday that “there’s been deception, and there’s been lies.”
Yet others in the administration have been more cautious. On Monday Kushner told CNN’s Van Jones that the Trump administration remained in “a fact-finding phase.”
“We’re obviously getting as many facts as we can from the different places, and then we’ll determine which facts are credible,” he said.