Saudi officials murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi in their Istanbul consulate after plotting his death for days, Turkey's president said Tuesday, contradicting Saudi Arabia's explanation that the writer was accidentally killed.
Bruce Riedel, a former Middle East specialist for the Central Intelligence Agency and National Security Council, said the Trump administration "desperately wants the Istanbul affair to go away and the MBS-Jared bromance obscured".
Trump spoke Sunday with the crown prince, who is the son of Saudi King Salman.
For Saudi Arabia's allies, the burning question has been whether they believe that Crown Prince Mohammed, who has painted himself as a reformer, has any culpability in the killing, a possibility raised by several United States lawmakers.
Turkish investigators are due to begin the search of a well in the garden of the Saudi consul general's residence in Istanbul, broadcaster NTV says, after Saudi officials had earlier refused to allow them to search.
The US leader criticised the kingdom for one of the "worst cover-ups in the history of cover-ups". "We're making very clear that the United States does not tolerate this kind of ruthless action to silence Mr. Khashoggi, a journalist, through violence".
Prince Mohammed said Wednesday that the killing of Khashoggi is a "heinous crime that can not be justified". "He s running things and so if anybody were going to be, it would be him".
Turkish officials have, through multiple leaks to USA and Turkish media, touted the existence of audio footage of Khashoggi's killing since October 12. Here, the U.S. president with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in the White House in March. But a solution seems a long way off, partly because of deepening skepticism in Turkey and elsewhere that the brazen crime could have been carried out without the knowledge of Prince Mohammed, the kingdom's heir apparent.
Saudi Arabia is one of the world's largest exporters of oil, has the Arab world's largest economy and is a key emerging market.
Trump described Erdogan's speech as "pretty rough" on Saudi Arabia.
The crown prince, widely known by his initials MBS, faces what the risk consultancy Eurasia Group has called "an acute public relations crisis" over Khashoggi's murder.
Last week, a leaked photo apparently taken from surveillance footage showed Mutreb at the consulate, just ahead of Khashoggi's arrival.
Authorities discovered the auto at an underground garage on Monday (Tuesday NZ time).
At this point, based on security camera footage, Turkish officials believe that Khashoggi has not left the building. Police have searched both areas for evidence of Khashoggi's remains, Reuters has reported.
Khashoggi, known for his criticism of Saudi policies, had been working as a columnist for The Washington Post.
According to the statement, a joint Saudi-Turkish investigative team in Istanbul "indicates that the suspects in the incident had committed their act with a premeditated intention". He made the comment at the Future Investment Initiative, the second annual summit of global investors in Riyadh. Our condolences go out to them.