National Security Adviser John Bolton made it clear to reporters during a briefing yesterday. He has not heard the audio tape of the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, nor does he intend to listen to it.
As stated, he believes he can get clear information from a transcript, and due to his inability to speak Arabic would not gain by hearing the original tape.
This is not an entirely unreasonable position. That did not prevent him from being mocked for it on social media.
John Bolton’s refusal to listen to the audio should not divert attention from the fact that he is emphasizing the fact that President Trump is not willing to change his position on the sale of weaponry to Saudi Arabia, despite his threats of “severe punishment” if the Saudis were found to be responsible for murdering a legal resident of the United States, after luring him away with an espionage action performed on American soil.
The demonstration of American weakness is not what most expected John Bolton to promote; he has a reputation of being an advocate of American strength and a supporter of national sovereignity. That was the John Bolton of the pre-Trump era, however.
There is at least one simple explanation for Bolton’s refusal. If Bolton listens to the audio, there will be calls for President Trump to do so, and President Trump has shown no interest in the recording. To the contrary, the President has accepted every excuse provided by the Crown Prince about Khashoggi, despite those excuses being modified every time new evidence has been revealed. The President is intent on maintaining the one deal that will reap concrete benefits to American countries which is not merely a poorly revised version of an existing deal. Hearing the audio would not merely be unpleasant for Trump, it would undermine his chosen position of trusting the Saudi Crown Prince over his intelligence agencies.