Advice: Saudis in trouble but United States should tread carefully

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U.S. President Donald Trump appeared to confirm the lack of evidence in U.S. hands when he said on Wednesday that the United States had asked Turkey for any audio or video evidence it may have related to Khashoggi.

The men spoke as Turkish media published grisly details they said was from an audio recording of Khashoggi's killing within the Saudi consulate, which reportedly suggests that the father of four was tortured and then killed soon after he entered the consulate.

Pompeo wouldn't say whether Khashoggi is alive or dead, and said the Saudis didn't want to talk about it either.

Khashoggi vanished October 2 during a visit to the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul.

Trump's previous warnings over the case drew an angry response Sunday from Saudi Arabia and its state-linked media, including a suggestion that Riyadh could wield its oil production as a weapon.

"He said: 'Are you kidding?" They said Khashoggi was killed within two hours of his arrival at the consulate, a schedule that would hardly allow time for an interrogation to go awry.

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Back in Washington, President Trump confidently parroted the Saudis' denials: Hey, it could have been "rogue killers" committing the murder of Jamal Khashoggi inside a heavily guarded Saudi consulate, Trump argued implausibly, and why let the grisly murder of a U.S. resident get in the way of lucrative arms sales? Rich Edson has more from the State Department.

Earlier this year, he arrived in the United States three days before Mohammed touched down for a nationwide tour, passport records maintained by the USA government show.

Members of the royal guard or aides who traveled with the crown prince might have been recruited for an expedition to capture or interrogate Khashoggi, perhaps led by a senior intelligence official. His killers later beheaded and dismembered him, it said.

"It's inconceivable that an operation using royal guards, other court officials and the consulate was not authorized by the crown prince".

Police plan to search the Saudi consul general's home, as well as some of the country's diplomatic vehicles, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said.

Mohammed is not considered to be the kind of leader to condone operatives' acting outside the chain of command.

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But the worldwide revulsion at the reported assassination and mutilation of a single newspaper columnist - Khashoggi, who wrote for The Washington Post - has already sullied that image far more than previous missteps by Mohammed bin Salman, from miring his country in a catastrophic war in Yemen to kidnapping the prime minister of Lebanon.

Asked in a Fox Business Network interview if Washington could abandon Riyadh, Trump said: "I do not want to do that". "They are an ally". He's also a non-resident scholar at the Middle East Institute in Washington, and he's the former Washington Post bureau chief for both the Middle East and Vietnam. That could, like Trump's softening comments, seek to give the kingdom a way out of the global firestorm of criticism over Khashoggi's fate.

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said Tuesday the United States should "sanction the hell out of Saudi Arabia" over the incident and that he would never again work with the crown prince, assailing him as "toxic" and calling him a "wrecking ball".

Under tremendous pressure from his own lawmakers and influential opinion makers in the United States to take action against Saudi Arabia as Khashoggi was feared killed inside the Saudi consulate in the Turkish city of Istanbul, Trump reiterated that he does not want to walk away from the Saudis.

Asked why the US seemed to give Saudi Arabia the benefit of the doubt, given the preponderance of signs that there was high-level Saudi involvement, Pompeo said "it is reasonable to give them a handful of days more to complete it, so they get it right, so that it's thorough and complete".

Even if the president doesn't come round to that view, the White House's relationship may be indelibly altered by Khashoggi's death.

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The move comes after Virgin Group chairman Richard Branson said he would suspend working with the Kingdom in the wake of Jamal Khashoggi's disappearance.

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