Trump sends top diplomat to Saudi Arabia over missing journalist

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Khashoggi, a USA resident, Washington Post columnist and leading critic of the powerful Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, vanished after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul two weeks ago to get marriage documents.

Trump told the CBS news show 60 Minutes there would be "severe punishment" if it is determined Khashoggi was killed inside the Saudi consulate, but Riyadh dismissed the US threat and said it would retaliate if Trump took any action against Saudi Arabia.

Mr. Trump said he doesn't want to scuttle a lucrative arms deal with the kingdom and noted that Khashoggi is a US resident, not a citizen.

Turkish authorities claim they have video and audio recordings indicating Khashoggi was first interrogated in the consulate, then tortured and murdered.

Trump despatched Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to the kingdom for what the State Department described as "face to face meetings with the Saudi leadership" to find out what happened.

The alleged incident led to business executives and media companies pulling out of a major investment conference in Saudi Arabia this month.

Two leading Republican senators said Congress stands ready to act, including a possible halt of military sales, if Trump doesn't.

"It's being investigated, it's being looked at very, very strongly", Trump said, after CBS's Lesley Stahl asked whether the Saudis had murdered Khashoggi.

One source says the report will likely conclude that the operation was carried out without clearance and transparency and that those involved will be held responsible.

The New York Times, citing a person familiar with the Saudi plans, reported the crown prince had approved an interrogation or rendition of Khashoggi back to Saudi Arabia.

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Cengiz, who spent hours waiting for Khashoggi outside while holding his mobile phones, says her fiancee never returned to meet her.

The organizers of the event said in a statement Monday that the conference will move ahead as planned starting October 23, despite speakers and sponsors pulling out.

Turkish and Saudi investigators began Monday what Turkish officials call a joint "inspection" of the consulate - but not before a cleaning crew walked in armed with mops, trash bags and cartons of milk, said to be good for removing bloodstains.

The renowned journalist has not been seen since entering the building nearly two weeks ago. United States intelligence officials have reported they are certain the interference took place in an effort to hurt Hillary Clinton's campaign.

The kingdom flexed its rhetorical muscles Sunday, saying that if it "receives any action, it will respond with greater action, and that the kingdom's economy has an influential and vital role in the global economy".

"The world is watching, the world is talking".

"I said this is very important, the world is watching, the world is talking, it's very important to get to the bottom of it", Mr Trump said he told King Salman.

Despite issuing a threat, Trump indicated he wouldn't cancel the $110 billion arms deal he negotiated with Saudi Arabia. "This, I think, depends on the crown prince".

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin still plans to attend a previously scheduled Saudi conference this week to address terrorist financing, but those plans could change as the investigation progresses, said White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow.

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