National Security Adviser John Bolton has trotted out a creative new defense of President Donald Trump’s apparent ambivalence toward Saudi Arabia’s assassination of Jamal Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist and Virginia resident.
During Tuesday’s White House briefing, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders yielded the floor to Bolton to answer reporters’ questions.
When the right-wing war hawk was asked whether he had listened to a recording of Khashoggi’s murder and dismemberment, which Trump has attempted to downplay, Bolton claimed that it wasn’t worth his time since he doesn’t speak Arabic.
“How many in this room speak Arabic?” the national security adviser asked incredulously, dodging suggestions that he use a translator.
After being reminded that his job doesn’t require him to speak every language, Bolton proclaimed, “I can read a transcript, too. …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?”
This is the latest twist in the Trump administration’s bizarre responses to Khashoggi’s execution.
The president — whose business dealings with Saudi Arabia are well–documented — has cited dubious weapons deals to justify not punishing the Saudis, compared criticism of Saudi Arabia to the sexual assault allegations against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, thanked the oil-rich country for lower gas prices, called the Saudis a “spectacular ally,” referred to Khashoggi as an “enemy of the state,” and cast doubt on the U.S. intelligence’s community’s assessment that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was involved in the execution of a political rival.
The White House also reportedly prevented CIA Director Gina Haspel from providing lawmakers with more details about Saudi Arabia’s role in Khashoggi’s assassination this week, opting instead for a closed-door hearing with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary James Mattis. As The Guardian notes, it’s customary for a senior intelligence official like Haspel to sit in on hearings or meetings of high national security importance, making Haspel’s expected absence on Wednesday even more conspicuous.