US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo received a first-hand briefing today on Turkey's claims that Jamal Khashoggi was killed by Saudi agents, but he did not listen to an audio tape that Turkey says offers a gruesome rendering of the journalist's last moments alive.

Pompeo's trip to hear both sides of the Khashoggi case - Saudi denials in Riyadh and Turkish accusations in Ankara - did not appear to offer any deeper clarity into how the Trump Administration is dealing with the conflicting accounts from two major allies.

But Pompeo suggested any possible US response would weigh its "important relations" with Saudi Arabia - a point made often by President Donald Trump that has raised speculation the United States may be unwilling to jeopardise business and security ties with the kingdom.

Speaking to the Fox Business Network, Trump again cited counterterrorism cooperation with Saudi Arabia and the kingdom's contracts with US defence contractors.


"We'll get down to the bottom of it," Trump said. "I hope that the [Saudi] king and the crown prince didn't know about it. That's the big factor in my eyes, and I hope they haven't."

Pompeo told reporters that the United States wants to give the Saudis "space" to come up with their reckonings into what occurred on October 2 after Khashoggi entered the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul.

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said Pompeo did not listen to a key piece of Turkey's evidence: an audio tape that Turkey claims captures Khashoggi's struggle and death inside the consulate.

Hours after Pompeo left Turkey, however, Trump sent possible mixed signals. He said US officials want to review any audio and video from Turkey relating to Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist and US resident.

"We have asked for [audio and video] if it exists," Trump told reporters.

He was then asked if he believes Turkey has such material. "Probably does, possibly does," Trump replied.

"I'm not giving cover at all," Trump added, referring to Saudi Arabia. "They are an ally. We have other good allies in the Middle East."

A Turkish police officer searches inside the residence of the Saudi consul General Mohammed al-Otaibi.
A Turkish police officer searches inside the residence of the Saudi consul General Mohammed al-Otaibi.

Yesterday, however, Trump suggested the world should not rush to judgment against Saudi Arabia, saying the global outcry is akin to a case of "you're guilty until proven innocent."

But Turkey appeared intent to further build its claims against Saudi Arabia.

Investigators today entered the Istanbul residence of the Saudi consul general, who has returned to Riyadh. The search came two days after Turkish forensic experts combed through the consulate, bringing away clues that officials said included possible blood stains.

The residence, about 500m from the consulate, is considered another key site in the probe. Several diplomatic cars were seen leaving the consulate for the house about an hour after Khashoggi stepped through the consulate's doors. Security cameras on the surrounding streets did not see him leave by foot, Turkish officials say.

Turkey's private DHA news agency reported that police wanted to inspect a "water well" in the garden of the residence. The news agency did not cite a source, and the report could not be independently verified.

After his meeting with Pompeo, Turkey's foreign minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, mocked the Saudi denials. He noted how the Saudi consul general opened a cupboard for a team from the Reuters news agency earlier this month "as if to say, 'See, he isn't here.'"

"Acting disrespectfully is not the correct approach," Cavusoglu said.

Suleyman Soylu, Turkey's interior minister, told the semiofficial Anadolu news agency that after the investigation is completed, the prosecutor's office and law enforcement will "meticulously present the results of the investigation," and "the whole world will be presented with what was what."

Pompeo's meetings in Turkey's capital, Ankara, were in sharp contrast to his talks a day earlier in Riyadh, where Saudi leaders repeated their denials that they had no knowledge of Khashoggi's fate after he entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul earlier this month.

Before leaving Riyadh, Pompeo told reporters that Saudi officials pledged they would hold any wrongdoers accountable, no matter how high their positions.

"They promised accountability for each of those persons whom they determine as a result of their investigation deserves accountability," he said. Asked whether that includes members of the royal family, Pompeo added, "They made no exceptions to who they would hold accountable."

In New York, House Speaker Paul Ryan, (R), said the episode "could be a real setback" for Saudi Arabia but predicted that a great deal of the kingdom's relationship with the United States "will persist no matter what."

Asked in a television interview that aired today about reports that Khashoggi was the victim of an interrogation gone wrong, Ryan said that would be "really disturbing."

"If this is the case, it's atrocious, and we have laws for this," Ryan said, raising the possibility that Saudi Arabia could face US sanctions.

"So I think these are the kinds of things that we'll be looking at in Congress, he said. "I've got to say, this was supposed to be a new Saudi government that was going to be reforming, opening up, transparency, moderating Islam, and to see something like this could be a real setback."

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, (R), also predicted US backlash if a Saudi link if proven, but he said Congress is awaiting details from Pompeo on his meetings.

"I can't imagine there will be no response" to Khashoggi's death, McConnell said.

Though the Khashoggi case has dominated his talks so far, Pompeo has raised other issues on his last-minute trip. Those issues underscore the Administration's reluctance to let the journalist's fate interfere too much with bilateral cooperation on other matters.

"We also had the chance to talk about lots of other elements of the relationship between our two countries," he told reporters.

"We have many overlapping interests, places we work together, places where Saudi Arabia and the United States are trying to achieve important things around the world. And we spent time discussing those as well."