US national security adviser Bolton defends not listening to tape of Saudi dissident Khashoggi's murder

White House national security adviser John Bolton said on Tuesday that he has not listened to recordings of journalist Jamal Khashoggi's murder because he doesn't speak Arabic.
At a press conference, US national security adviser John Bolton declined to explain why he had not listened to the recording of the killing inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul.
At a press conference, US national security adviser John Bolton declined to explain why he had not listened to the recording of the killing inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul.PHOTO: NYTIMES

WASHINGTON (NYTIMES) - Mr John Bolton, President Donald Trump's national security adviser, on Tuesday (Nov 27) defended the fact that neither Mr Trump nor top national security officials had listened to audio of the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, saying that they did not speak Arabic and would not be able to understand what was on the tape.

During a nearly hour-long briefing focused on foreign policy, Mr Bolton took the lectern at the White House and declined to answer repeated questions about why he had not listened to the recording provided by Turkish officials of the killing inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul.

"Why do you think I should?" Mr Bolton asked reporters, suggesting he could read a transcript instead.

"People who speak Arabic have listened to the tape, and they've given us the substance of what's in it."

Mr Bolton's comments came as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defence Secretary James Mattis were preparing to brief the Senate on Wednesday about the circumstances surrounding Mr Khashoggi's death, which has prompted outrage among members of Congress.

Mr Trump has absolved Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in the killing, putting the President at odds with those lawmakers and the CIA, which concluded that Prince Mohammed had ordered the killing.

"It could very well be that the Crown Prince had knowledge of this tragic event," Mr Trump said last week in an extraordinary statement in defence of the Saudis. "Maybe he did and maybe he didn't!"

 
 

Mr Bolton indicated that the President's views have remained unchanged since then.

"The President has spoken to our position on this issue," Mr Bolton said. "That is our position."

The recording is seen by intelligence officials as some of the strongest evidence linking Prince Mohammed to the killing.

Turkish intelligence officers have told US officials they believe that Maher Abdulaziz Mutreb, a security officer who frequently travelled with the prince, can be heard on the tape making a phone call to one of the prince's aides.

While translations of the Arabic may differ, the people briefed on the call said Mutreb said to the aide words to the effect of "the deed was done".