WASHINGTON - Multiple media outlets report there's an increasing belief that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is involved in the disappearance and suspected murder of Saudi dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is back in the US to tell President Donald Trump what he learned from his visit with the royal family and his visit to Turkey where the incident took place. The president says he's waiting on a thorough investigation before taking official action.
Meanwhile, The New York Times reports Turkish authorities say audio recordings indicate a hit squad beheaded and dismembered Khashoggi inside the Saudi consulate.
US intelligence officials say evidence points to the crown prince's involvement, noting that some members of the assassination team serve on his security detail.
Nevertheless, President Trump has said he won't "walk away from Saudi Arabia," noting, "They're an ally and they're a tremendous purchaser of not only military equipment but other things."
Trump says the prince and Saudi king both deny having any knowledge about what happened to Khashoggi. But others have their doubts, including Khalil Jahshan, a friend of Khasoggi's.
"I would say it's a far-fetched assumption because the governing process is a very vertical one. It always goes up to the top," said Jahshan, executive director of the Arab Center in Washington.
The crown prince is the heir to the throne and has been credited with bringing some positive changes to Saudi Arabia.
CBN News international correspondent George Thomas explains, "Since becoming crown prince, Prince Salman has positioned himself as the champion of modernization. He has ushered in a host of economic and social reforms and allowed, for example, women to drive for the first time. They can also open their own businesses."
Thomas says while the crown prince has helped to modernize Saudi Arabia, he's also ruled with a heavy hand.
"He's clamped down on critics, arresting dozens of prominent business leaders, government officials, human rights activists, and even members of the royal family. The number of executions has steeply increased," he noted.
Meanwhile, the president insists he is not giving cover to the Saudis.
"I want to find out what happened, where is the fault, and we will probably know that by the end of the week," Trump said Wednesday in the Oval Office.
The Washington Post has published a final op-ed written by Khashoggi, saying the Arab world needs more freedom of expression.