Trump Changes Tune On Khashoggi: 'Unless Miracles Happen, He's Dead'

Missing Saudi Arabian journalist Jamal Khashoggi is probably dead and Saudi officials may be responsible, US President Donald Trump has acknowledged.

It's a strong reversal from the president, who has previously sought to cast doubt on alleged recordings of the probable killing, obtained by Turkish officials, and who speculated publicly that Khashoggi may have come into contact with "rogue killers".

READ MORE: Understanding Saudi Arabia's Geopolitical Mess In Less Than 10 Minutes

Speaking from the White House, Trump didn't go as far as saying Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the power behind the Saudi throne, was responsible for the probable murder. However, he did acknowledge that it raised serious questions about the US allegiance with Saudi Arabia.

"Unless the miracle of all miracles happens, I would acknowledge that he's dead," Trump told the New York Times.

"That's based on everything -- intelligence coming from every side."

When asked later by reporters if Khashoggi was dead, he replied: "It certainly looks that way to me. It's very sad."

Jamal Khashoggi has been missing since October 2. Photo: Getty.

And when asked what the consequences for Saudi Arabia should be, he said: "Well, it'll have to be very severe. I mean, it's bad, bad stuff. But we'll see what happens."

Khashoggi, a journalist and critic of the Saudi Arabian regime and the Crown Prince, has been missing for more than two weeks, after entering the Saudi embassy in Turkey to obtain a marriage licence.

Turkish officials believe he was assassinated by Saudi agents.

Saudia Arabia has denied any involvement.

READ MORE: Audio Tapes Reveal Details About Jamal Khashoggi 'Murder'

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo flew to Riyadh in an emergency diplomatic mission to meet Saudi and Turkish leaders.

Upon his return, he advised Trump that Saudi Arabia should be given a few more days to complete its investigation, reports Reuters.

"We can make decisions about how -- or if -- the United States should respond to the incident surrounding Mr Khashoggi" after the report, Pompeo said.

READ MORE: Assassination Is As Old As Politics. But This One Is Different.

If Khashoggi was murdered by his own government, then it throws into serious question the close relationship Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) has enjoyed with the Trump administration, including members of Trump's own family.

Vice President Mike Pence has taken a stronger stance than Trump on the disappearance of Khashoggi.

"If a journalist lost their life at the hand of violence, that is a threat to a free and independent press around the world and there will be consequences," he said.

It comes as more companies and high-profile people pull out of an upcoming investor conference in Saudi Arabia, which has been championed by MBS.

Fox Business Network is the latest to pull out, joining Bloomberg, The Financial Times, CNN, The New York Times, JPMorgan, Uber and BlockRock.

Contact the author: abrucesmith@networkten.com.au

Photo: Reuters