Audio linked to Jamal Khashoggi‘s murder inside Saudi Arabia’s Istanbul consulate does not implicate Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton said Tuesday, citing others who have heard the tapes.
Turkey has previously said it shared recordings linked to the murder of Khashoggi — a Saudi dissident and fierce critic of the crown prince — with officials in Riyadh, Washington and other capitals.
Khashoggi was last seen entering the consulate on October 2 to obtain documents for his forthcoming marriage.
After repeated denials, Saudi Arabia finally admitted the 59-year-old had been murdered at the mission in a “rogue” operation.
Bolton, speaking to reporters in Singapore ahead of a regional summit, was asked whether it was right to say the audio contained nothing that implicated the crown prince.
“I haven’t listened to the tape myself but in the assessment of those who have listened to it that’s right,” he said.
I suspect the US intelligence community is pretty sure MBS was in the loop of the Khashoggi killing, but expect Trump & Kushner (& Bolton & Pompeo) to avoid pointing the finger. After all, their whole play in the Middle East runs through the Crown Prince. https://t.co/JLoQ4uiWrn
— Colin Kahl (@ColinKahl) November 13, 2018
Khashoggi’s brazen murder has caused intense speculation over what, if anything, Crown Prince Salman might have known about the operation.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said the order to murder Khashoggi came from “the highest levels” of the Saudi government and pointedly failed to absolve Crown Prince Salman of responsibility.
The New York Times reported that a member of the team at the consulate had told a superior by phone to “tell your boss,” suspected to be the crown prince, that the operation had been accomplished.
The Trump administration embraced the young prince as a reform-minded ally, but the murder of Khashoggi — a U.S. resident — has soured that narrative.
Bolton emphasized that Trump has demanded a full investigation from the Saudis and for those responsible to be held accountable.
“The president has made it very clear that he expects we’re going to get the truth from the Saudis — and the king and the crown prince, in the conversations they’ve had with the president, have committed to that,” he said.
But Trump has also emphasized America’s important commercial, strategic and national security relationships with the petro-state as well as lucrative arms contracts.