WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump's national security adviser said Tuesday that people who have listened to an audio recording of the killing of a Saudi journalist do not think it implicates Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in his death.
"That is not the conclusion that the people who have heard it have come to," John Bolton told reporters at a summit in Singapore.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said that audio recordings related to the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist who had been critical of the Saudi royal family, have been shared with Saudi Arabia and other nations, including the United States, Britain, France, Germany and Canada.
Bolton said Trump wants to learn the truth about what happened at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul where Khashoggi was killed Oct. 2. "I have not listened to the tape myself, but in the assessment of those who have listened to it, it does not, in any way, link the crown prince to the killing," Bolton said.
Turkish officials say Khashoggi was killed by an assassination squad sent from Riyadh and insist the orders for the killing came from the highest levels of the Saudi government, but not King Salman. Turkish officials claim that a 15-member Saudi "hit squad" strangled and dismembered Khashoggi at the consulate. His body has not been found.
"The recording is truly atrocious," Erdogan was reported as saying in comments published in pro-government newspaper Yeni Safak. "In fact, when the Saudi intelligence officer listened to the recording he was so shocked that he said 'this one probably took heroin. Only someone who took heroin would do it.'"
Earlier this week, The New York Times reported that shortly after Khashoggi was killed, a member of the alleged assassination squad — a man believed to be Maher Abdulaziz Mutreb — told a superior over the phone to "tell your boss." The newspaper quoted three unnamed individuals familiar with the audio recording as saying that Turkish intelligence officers have told U.S. officials that they believe Mutreb, a security officer who frequently traveled with the crown prince, was talking on the phone with one of the prince's aides.