John Bolton Has a Baffling Excuse for Refusing to Review the Khashoggi Tape

His remarks came amid reporting that the White House is blocking a Congressional briefing on the brutal murder.

Sergei Fadeichev/ZUMA

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National Security Adviser John Bolton has not listened to the tape recording of Jamal Khashoggi’s murder, a recording the CIA and Turkish officials have determined shows the Saudi crown prince personally directed the brutal killing—nor does he appear to have any intention of doing so anytime soon.

During a White House press briefing on Tuesday, the national security adviser appeared to suggest personally reviewing the tape would be futile because he didn’t speak Arabic. 

“No, I haven’t listened to it,” Bolton said . “I guess I should ask you, why do you think I should? What do you think I’ll learn from it?”

The reporter, reminding Bolton of his role as one of the nation’s top intelligence officials, said that it appeared likely that he would have access to such intelligence and would, therefore, seek to review it. Bolton responded by posing the question: “How many in this room speak Arabic?”

“You don’t have access to an interpreter?” a reporter asked.

“Well, you want me to listen to it? What am I going to learn?” he shot back. “I mean if they were speaking Korean I wouldn’t learn any more from it either.” The tense exchange continued: “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?”

Bolton’s baffling justification, which appeared to stun journalists in the room, came amid new reports that the White House is blocking CIA director Gina Haspel from briefing the Senate on the Khashoggi murder. Bolton denied those reports.

Later in the briefing, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders left open the possibility that the president would meet with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman during this weekend’s upcoming G-20 summit in Argentina. She also claimed that the White House has yet to see “definitive evidence” implicating the crown prince in Khashoggi’s murder inside Saudi Arabia’s Istanbul consulate last month.

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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