President TrumpDonald TrumpFormer New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver dead at 77 Biden, Democrats losing ground with independent and suburban voters: poll Bipartisan Senate group discusses changes to election law MORE said Thursday that it "certainly looks" like Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi is dead while vowing "severe" consequences if the Saudis are found to be responsible.
"It certainly looks that way to me. It's very sad," Trump told reporters before departing for a campaign rally in Montana when asked if the U.S.-based journalist was dead.
The president added that consequences for alleged Saudi involvement in Khashoggi's death will "have to be very severe."
"It’s bad, bad stuff," he said. "But we’ll see what happens."
Khashoggi, a resident of Virginia who served as an opinion contributor to The Washington Post, has been missing for more than two weeks. He was last seen entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2.
Turkish officials have said they have audio that proves he was killed and dismembered by Saudi operatives shortly after entering the consulate. Saudi leaders are reportedly considering blaming a top Saudi intelligence officer for Khashoggi's apparent killing.
In a brief Oval Office interview with The New York Times shortly before leaving for Montana, Trump cited intelligence reports that suggest high-level Saudi officials played a role in Khashoggi’s demise.
"Unless the miracle of all miracles happens, I would acknowledge that he’s dead," Trump said. "That’s based on everything — intelligence coming from every side."
He told the newspaper that it was "a little bit early" to be certain about who ordered the killing.
Before Thursday, Trump had refrained from openly speculating on whether Khashoggi was dead, while echoing denials from Saudi leaders that they were responsible for his disappearance.
On Tuesday, the president criticized what he saw as a rush to place blame surrounding Khashoggi's disappearance.
Trump's comments Thursday came hours after Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven MnuchinConservatives are outraged that Sarah Bloom Raskin actually believes in capitalism Suspect in Khashoggi murder arrested The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden to tackle omicron risks with new travel rules MORE said he would pull out of a high-profile investment summit in Riyadh.
Meanwhile, Secretary of State Mike PompeoMike PompeoSunday shows preview: US reaffirms support for Ukraine amid threat of Russian invasion Pence to deliver keynote at fundraising banquet for South Carolina-based pregnancy center Russia suggests military deployments to Cuba, Venezuela an option MORE said Thursday that Saudi Arabia would have “a few more days” to complete its investigation into Khashoggi's disappearance.
"They made clear to me that they too understand the serious nature of the disappearance of Mr. Khashoggi," Pompeo said of the Saudis.
The New York Times reported late Wednesday that U.S. intelligence agencies increasingly believe that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman played a role in whatever happened to Khashoggi.
The crown prince and King Salman have both said they do not know what happened to the journalist.
The Trump administration has faced growing pressure in recent days to offer a more forceful response to the Saudis over the journalist's disappearance.
Republicans and Democrats alike have indicated they are increasingly convinced that the crown prince was involved in Khashoggi's apparent slaying, and have warned that the incident will likely force a reassessment of U.S.-Saudi relations.
Updated: 5:49 p.m.