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"They had a very bad original concept", Trump said in apparent reference to Khashoggi's killers, according to several White House reporters.

Trump had previously called Saudi versions credible and sent conflicting signals on how the USA should respond, last week calling the journalist's killing "very bad" but repeatedly emphasizing that he didn't want to endanger US arms sales to Saudi Arabia, Saudi investment in the US or the American alliance with the kingdom. And they should be in big trouble. Speaking at an event titled "Transformers: Space" by the Washington Post, where Khashoggi was a contributor, Pence described the attack as "an assault on free and independent press".

Turkish officials say that a Saudi team of 15 men tortured, killed and dismembered the writer and that Saudi officials had planned the killing for days.

The president elaborated on his comments Tuesday evening at a briefing with military leaders, saying, "I would say it was a total fiasco, from day one, from the thought, whoever put it in their minds, that was not a good thought". "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".

U.S. President Donald Trump said earlier on Monday that he has "top intelligence people in Turkey", but did not provide any details. "The American people want answers, and we will demand that those answers are forthcoming".

"We have strong signs that the murder was the result of a planned operation, not a spontaneous development". So we do that, we're just hurting ourselves.

The US and its allies also have some independent intelligence reporting supporting media reports that Khashoggi was murdered inside the consulate by a military squad sent from Saudi Arabia to Istanbul, two sources said.

COVER IMAGE: Turkish police stand guard next to an armoured police vehicle as they cordoned off an underground auto park - where they found an abandoned auto belonging to the Saudi consulate, three weeks after the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate - in Istanbul, Turkey, October 22, 2018.

"The incident took place in Istanbul", he said.

Mr Erdogan's address coincided with the start of an investment conference in Saudi Arabia that has been overshadowed by the Khashoggi case. Critics allege that bin Salman, now crown prince, may have ordered Kahshoggi's killing.

Trump has resisted calls thus far to cut off arms sales to the kingdom and Pompeo stressed the strategic importance of the U.S. -Saudi relationship.

A USA official said CIA Director Gina Haspel is in Turkey to review the case of the slain writer.

A friend of the Khashoggi family said Salah has been under a travel ban since past year.

After weeks of denying knowledge of his fate, Saudi officials said the journalist was killed in a "fist fight".

Worldwide attention increased after Saudi Arabia said on Saturday that Khashoggi died in a fight.

"The individuals who did this did this outside the scope of their authority", Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir told Fox News.

Riyadh says Khashoggi was accidentally choked during a rendition attempt that went wrong, and his body was rolled up in a rug and given to a third party. His body was then rolled in a rug and given to a local "co-operator" to dispose of.

Mr Erdogan alleged the group travelled to the consulate and called the journalist to confirm his appointment to seek documentation he needed to marry his fiancee.


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