The US president said he was “very upset and angry” about the case and indicated that he was not fully convinced by the Saudis’ repeated claims of innocence.
“Could it be them? Yes,” he said. “In the not too distant future I think we’ll know an answer,” Trump told CBS News in an a "60 Minutes" interview that will air on Sunday. “We're going to get to the bottom of it and there will be severe punishment.”
Mr Khashoggi, who would have turned 60 on Saturday, has not been seen since he went into the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2.
"There will be severe punishment." In his first 60 Minutes interview since taking office, President Trump tells Lesley Stahl that if Saudi Arabia is found to be responsible for journalist Jamal Khashoggi's death, there will be consequences. https://t.co/BRZfIPHbNY pic.twitter.com/s6X98AylBR— 60 Minutes (@60Minutes) October 13, 2018
Turkish officials claim to have tapes of Saudi operatives torturing and murdering Mr Khashoggi, possibly recorded by the journalist’s own Apple Watch. Saudi Arabia has vehemently denied involvement in the journalists’ disappearance.
While Mr Trump said he would punish Saudi Arabia, he said he would not cancel arms sales to the kingdom in response, as a bipartisan group of US senators have demanded. “I don't want to hurt jobs,” he said.
Mr Trump, who has previously referred to journalists as “enemies of the people”, said it was “really terrible and disgusting” that a journalist had been targeted.
Sources close to the royal court said the inner circle of Mohammed bin Salman, the Saudi crown prince, was shocked at the speed and intensity at which global anger over Mr Khashoggi’s disappearance turned towards Saudi Arabia.