Audio related to the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi doesn’t implicate Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, according to U.S. national security adviser John Bolton.
While in Singapore Tuesday, Bolton said he did not think that people who heard the recordings concluded that the crown prince was linked to the killing.
“And certainly that is not the position of the Saudi government,” he said.
Asked again if the audio tape provided by Turkey did not link Prince Mohammed to the killing in any way, Bolton said: “I haven’t listened to the tape myself, but in the assessment of those who have listened to it, that is right.”
Bolton shares with Saudi Arabia a hawkish stance against Riyadh’s biggest Middle East rival Iran, and he championed Washington’s resumption of sanctions on the Islamic Republic.
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The U.S. official’s takeaways from the audio recordings, which are allegedly from inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul where Khashoggi was killed on Oct. 2, are contrary to other reports.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said the killing was ordered at the “highest levels” of the Saudi government. Turkish officials have not specifically mentioned the Saudi prince.
Meanwhile, on Monday, the New York Times reported that the recording includes one member of the Saudi kill team on a phone call, saying, “tell your boss” the kill operation was successful.
The quote was confirmed by three sources familiar with the recordings. The newspaper said American intelligence officials believe “your boss” to be a reference to Prince Mohammed.
The NYT report adds that the person making the phone call is Maher Abdulaziz Mutreb, a security officer who frequently travels with the prince.
Bruce O. Riedel, a former CIA officer, told the Times that is “pretty incriminating evidence.”
While the audio has not been heard by media, Turkey has shared it with officials from several Western countries, including Canada.
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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau became the first Western leader to acknowledge his country had received the recordings.
“Canada has been fully briefed up on what Turkey had to share,” Trudeau said from the Canadian Embassy in Paris, where he was attending the Peace Forum following the First World War Armistice centenary.
Trudeau said that he had not heard the audio and he wouldn’t give any details on the contents of the tapes.
CIA director Gina Haspel, who visited Turkey last month for information on the investigation, is reported to have heard the audio recordings of the killing. The existence of the recordings was leaked to the media but never openly confirmed until last week.
— With files from Reuters, the Associated Press