Bolton on Whether He Listened to Audio of Khashoggi’s Murder: ‘Why Do You Think I Should?’

By Melanie Arter | November 28, 2018 | 11:36 AM EST

National security adviser John Bolton (Screenshot)

( – National Security Advisor John Bolton said Tuesday that he had not heard the audio tape of the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, asking a reporter why he should and what will he learn from listening to it.

During a White House press briefing, Bolton was asked whether he heard the tape of the Saudi journalist’s murder and whether it conclusively points to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman as having ordered Khashoggi’s murder. The reporter also asked whether it was true that the White House is blocking CIA Director Gina Haspel from speaking to senators about the audio intelligence on Wednesday.


So, let me take the question of the tape first. No, I haven’t listened to it, and I guess I should ask you, why do you think I should? What do you think I’ll learn from it?” Bolton asked.



REPORTER: Well, you’re the National Security Advisor. You might have access to that sort of intelligence.

BOLTON: Yeah. How many in this room speak Arabic?

REPORTER: You don’t have access to an interpreter?

BOLTON: What, you want me to listen to it? What am I going to learn from -- I mean, if they were speaking Korean, I wouldn’t learn any more from it either.

REPORTER: Well, an interpreter would be able to tell you what’s going on.

BOLTON: Well, then I can read a transcript, too.

REPORTER: Okay. So you don’t think it’s important that you hear that as the National Security Advisor?

BOLTON: I’m just trying to make the point that everybody who says, ‘Why don’t you listen to the tape?’ Unless you speak Arabic, what are you going to get from it, really? The president -- the president has spoken to our position on this issue. He’s spoken very clearly, and that is our position. Now, tell me the other questions.

REPORTER: Are you blocking Gina Haspel from sharing information with members of the Congress?

BOLTON: Certainly not. Certainly not.


Another reporter - American Urban Radio Network White House Correspondent April Ryan - piggybacked on the first reporter’s question on Khashoggi and pressed Bolton on why he didn’t just ask a translator to translate the audio so that Bolton can understand what he heard.

RYAN: Ambassador, going back to the Khashoggi issue. Being informed about an issue is part of, I guess, what is in the scope of national security.

BOLTON: We try to be.

RYAN: Okay, But in the midst of it, why not -- I’m going to go back to that question again, sir. Why not get a translator to understand, to hear what happened? You could find out a little bit more than what they’ve told you by listening.

BOLTON: People who speak Arabic have listened to the tape, and they have given us the substance of what’s in it.

RYAN: And you trust those who’ve given you the substance?

BOLTON: I don’t speak Arabic.

RYAN: I know, but a translator -- you could hear the emotion, and a translator could help you understand what happened at that time to relay to the president, to the United States, and to convey to the world what happened.

BOLTON: I’m very satisfied that we know what the tape picked up, and it was factored into the president’s decision, and he’s announced his position very clearly.

RYAN: As economic security is national security, I think this should be in your lane.

Meanwhile, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary James Mattis will brief the senators behind closed doors on the Trump administration’s relationship with Saudi Arabia. The senators could vote as soon as Wednesday to end U.S. support for the Saudi coalition in Yemen.



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