Donald Trump’s top security advisor, John Bolton, told reporters at the White House today that there was no reason for him to listen to an audio tape of Jamal Khashoggi’s killing, because there’s nothing he would “get from it.”
Bolton, the head of the National Security Council, is tasked with correlating and analyzing information from thousands of US intelligence experts across various agencies and the military, and serves as the president’s closest advisor on US security matters. He told reporters at the White House briefing room that he wasn’t planning on listening to the Khashoggi tape because he doesn’t speak Arabic.
“You…don’t have access to a translator?” an incredulous reporter asked.
The US Central Intelligence Agency and Turkish officials say that Khashoggi was brutally murdered on the orders of Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman at the Saudi embassy in Istanbul in October. Last week, Trump nevertheless issued a much-mocked press release defending the prince, stating “maybe he did, maybe he didn’t” order the killing and that “we may never know.”
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee has asked CIA head Gina Haspel, who has heard the tape, to brief them on the Khashoggi situation alongside secretary of state Mike Pompeo on Nov. 28. Neither Pompeo or Trump have listened to the tape, which is Trump described as “terrible” and “very violent.” Trump said in an interview this month that there was “no reason” for him to listen to it.
Bolton’s refusal to listen to the tape was ridiculed by Middle East experts, in part because of his hawkish advocacy for military intervention in the area. ”Not knowing enough Arabic to understand the region has somehow never prevented Bolton from advocating for bombing it all the time,” noted Yousef Munayyer, the executive director of the US Campaign for Palestinian rights.