Canada has 'worrying' questions about disappearance of Khashoggi: Freeland

The Latest: Trump suggests ‘rogue killers’ in writer case

Leaked surveillance video shows that diplomatic cars travelled to the consul general's home shortly after Khashoggi went into the consulate.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is now in Saudi Arabia meeting royalty amid growing global tension over the disappearance of prominent Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

But the Saudis have faced intense criticism over the Khashoggi incident, which comes just after USA senators almost succeeded in cutting off support for Riyadh's air campaign against rebels in Yemen, which a United Nations report says has killed thousands of civilians.

President Donald Trump, who earlier warned of "severe punishment" if the kingdom was found culpable for Khashoggi's disappearance, criticised the allegations against the kingdom and compared it to the accusations of sexual assault levelled against now-Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh during his confirmation hearing.

In a statement after meetings with both the Saudi king and crown prince, Pompeo said they "strongly denied any knowledge of what took place in their consulate in Istanbul".

The government's tentative explanation comports with comments Mr. Trump made Monday, after speaking to Saudi King Salman: "It sounded to me like maybe these could have been rogue killers", the president said.

Lindsey Graham, the Republican senator and confidant of the USA president, said he wanted to "sanction the hell out of Saudi Arabia" and pointed the finger at its crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman - known by his initials "MBS".

Mr Khashoggi was once an adviser to the Saudi royal family but fell out of favour with the country's rulers and went into self-imposed exile.

According to Erdogan, Turkish investigators who searched the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul found surfaces there newly painted over.

With evidence mounting that Saudi Arabia is behind the suspected murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has come under increasing fire in the Western press.

The Journal, like CNN, said the Saudi statement has not been finalised. However, U.S. news reports said Saudi Arabia was edging toward acknowledging that Khashoggi was killed after he entered the consulate, blaming his death on an interrogation gone wrong.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told reporters the investigation "was looking into many things such as toxic materials and those materials being removed by painting them over".

Pompeo will fly to Ankara on Wednesday for talks with Turkish officials about the case.

In an interview that aired Sunday night, Trump threatened "severe punishment" if it turned out the Saudis did kill Khashoggi, who had been living in the USA in self-imposed exile.

Trump said the Saudi leader assured him that "he has already started, and will rapidly expand, a full and complete investigation into this matter".

Turkish authorities reportedly claim they have tapes proving he was interrogated, tortured and then murdered.

"I think we have to find out what happened first", Trump told the Associated Press in an interview on Tuesday.

Pro-government newspaper Sabah reported at the weekend that Khashoggi's Apple Watch recorded his interrogation, torture and killing, although some experts have said it is not likely that the watch could have recorded the events in the manner described.

It's not clear whether the public will ever get any evidence of what happened beyond Saudi Arabia's word.

Trump called Pompeo on Sunday night and asked him to have face-to-face meetings with the Saudi leaders, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said.

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