Bolton says he didn’t listen to Khashoggi tape because ‘I don’t speak Arabic’ |

Bolton says he didn’t listen to Khashoggi tape because ‘I don’t speak Arabic’

The Washington Post
FILE - In this Wednesday, June 27, 2018 file photo, U.S. National security adviser John Bolton waits for the talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia. President Donald Trump’s national security adviser is going to be raising thorny subjects with his counterparts in Moscow on a visit to help craft a script for another high-level meeting between Trump and Russia President Vladimir Putin. John Bolton leaves Saturday, Oct. 20, 2018 on a trip to Russia, Azerbaijan, Armenia and Georgia. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko, Pool)

White House national security adviser John Bolton on Tuesday defended his decision not to listen to the tape of journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s murder, telling reporters at the White House, “I don’t speak Arabic.”

CIA Director Gina Haspel has listened to the tape, according to U.S. officials. But others, such as Bolton and President Trump himself, have not. Trump said this month that there was “no reason” for him to hear the recording, which was provided by Turkey and captures Khashoggi being killed by a Saudi hit team moments after entering the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2.

Khashoggi was a prominent critic of Saudi leaders and a contributing columnist to The Washington Post.

“No, I haven’t listened to it, and I guess I should ask you, why do you think I should?” Bolton said Tuesday, turning a question back on a reporter during an appearance in the White House briefing room. “What do you think I’ll learn from it?”

He went on to ask how many in the room spoke Arabic, prompting a contentious back-and-forth.

“Do you have access to an interpreter?” the reporter asked.

“You want me to listen to it?” Bolton responded. “What am I going to learn from — I mean, if they were speaking Korean, I wouldn’t learn any more from it, either.”

Later in the briefing, another reporter again asked Bolton why he did not choose to listen to the tape with the help of an interpreter.

“People who speak Arabic have listened to the tape and they have given us the substance of what’s in it… . 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,” Bolton said.

Members of Congress from both parties have called for the Trump administration to take a harder line against Saudi Arabia in the wake of Khashoggi’s killing, and tensions are likely to be on full display Wednesday when Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis brief lawmakers on Capitol Hill.

Bolton’s remarks prompted criticism from some Democrats on Tuesday, including Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio. He noted in an appearance on CNN that Haspel, who has listened to the tape, will not be present at Wednesday’s briefing. Bolton on Tuesday dismissed reports that the White House had blocked Haspel from attending.

“This is just a bad movie,” Brown said. “You have John Bolton refusing to listen to a tape because he doesn’t speak Arabic. … He should want more information, not less.”

Brown added that a number of lawmakers will likely ask for the tape at Wednesday’s briefing. He also took aim at what he described as the Trump administration’s “arrogance,” accusing the president of “throwing in with the world’s dictators.”

“They’re the only people he doesn’t criticize,” Brown said.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.