Bolton says Saudi crown prince not implicated in recording of Khashoggi killing
National security adviser John Bolton on Tuesday said that an audio recording of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s killing does not appear to implicate Saudi Arabia’s crown prince.
Speaking to reporters in Singapore, Bolton said that while he hasn’t heard the recording, “that’s not the conclusion that I think the people who heard it have come to,” according to The Wall Street Journal.
Bolton’s comments come after The New York Times reported Monday night that audio shared with the United States by Turkey includes a member of the kill team telling someone on the phone to “tell your boss,” adding words to the effect of “the deed was done.”
Citing three unnamed people familiar with the recording, the Times reported that American intelligence officials believe the “boss” in question is Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
The person who made the phone call was Maher Abdulaziz Mutreb, a former bodyguard for Crown Prince Mohammed, according to the Times.
Khashoggi, a Virginia resident and Washington Post columnist who often criticized the Saudi government, was killed on Oct. 2 when he went to the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul to get paperwork for his marriage to his Turkish fiancée.
Turkish officials have said Khashoggi was strangled almost immediately upon entering the consulate and that his body was then dismembered and disposed of.
The Saudis have denied Crown Prince Mohammed’s involvement in the plan to kill Khashoggi. But regional experts and Western officials are doubtful such an operation would have been carried out without the approval of Saudi Arabia’s day-to-day leader.
The incident has drawn eyes to the relationship between the U.S. and the kingdom.
U.S. lawmakers have called for sanctions, among other punitive measures, in response to the killing and have said the crown prince should not be spared if he is found to be involved.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said publicly for the first time Saturday that an audio recording of Khashoggi’s dying moments had been shared with the United States, as well as with Saudi Arabia, Britain, France and Germany.
“The recordings are really appalling,” Erdogan added Monday. “When the Saudi intelligence officer listened to the recordings, he was so shocked he said: ‘This one must have taken heroin. Only someone who takes who heroin would do this.’ ”
Turkish officials have steadily leaked information about the case to the media, increasing international pressure on Saudis. Erdogan has said the killing was ordered by the “highest levels” of the Saudi government, without accusing a specific official.
On Monday, Bolton told reporters the United States trusts Saudi Arabia to investigate the killing.
“We expect that they will continue the investigation and that’s very important to us and it’s very important to others in the region, too,” he said. “The president has made it very clear that he expects that we’re going to get the truth from the Saudis.”
He added that he does not expect the issue to affect arms sales to the kingdom.
“The president has also said that this is an incredibly important relationship that he wants to sustain and that he doesn’t see that affecting the arms sales,” Bolton said.