Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met Tuesday in Saudi Arabia with King Salman over the disappearance and alleged murder of Saudi journalist and Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi.
President Donald Trump sent his top diplomat after calling the king Monday. "The king firmly denied any knowledge of it. He didn't really know. Maybe – I – I don't want to get into his mind, but it sounded to me like maybe these could have been rogue killers. Who knows?" Trump said.
Pompeo also met with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the heir to the throne whose rise to power prompted Khashoggi to enter exile in the United States.
CBN News Senior International Correspondent Gary Lane says, "I think he sent Pompeo there because he wants the King to know, 'Look, we're serious about this. If you don't admit up to this or you don't come clean on this, you're going to have some heavy sanctions."
What Happened in Turkey?
Turkish leaders claim they have evidence the Saudis "interrogated, tortured and then murdered" Khashoggi. The journalist is a Saudi citizen and used to be an insider with the royal family. But then he became a critic.
Two weeks ago, Khashoggi entered the consulate to finish paperwork for his upcoming wedding and vanished. Turkish video reportedly shows Saudi operatives entering and leaving the country that same day.
So far the Saudis have denied any involvement, but the New York Times is reporting they may admit the journalist died in an interrogation that went too far, pointing the finger at an overzealous intelligence official.
"I heard that report but nobody knows if it's an official report. So far, it's just the rumor -- the rumor of a report coming out," President Trump said.
Critics say that story doesn't fit the facts and is an attempt by the Saudis to tamp down the growing outcry.
Meanwhile, a team of Saudi and Turkish investigators went through the consulate in Istanbul, Turkey.
Negative Impact on the United States
Some lawmakers want Trump to do more in this diplomatic tension. The president has repeatedly said he would not stop a major arms deal with the Saudis government, saying that would have negative consequences on the US, hurting jobs in the defense industry.
"The effort behind the scenes is focused on avoiding a diplomatic crisis between the two countries," said Ayham Kamel, the head of the Eurasia Group's Mideast and North African practice.
If a US-Saudi showdown were to escalate, the world's oil supply could be put at risk. Saudi government-run media, suggested that Riyadh could wield its oil production as a weapon if the US tries to punish them. So if the US sanctions Saudi Arabia and the Saudis slash oil production in retaliation, that could mean a big spike in global oil prices. That would mean an oil crisis with higher gas prices.
Meanwhile, the Saudis are eager not to lose any foreign investment in their country, and they rely heavily on oil money, so they're hoping to avoid any escalation.