The President condemned the Saudi government as the United States vowed to revoke visas of some of those believed to be behind the brutal killing.
Trump spoke hours after Turkey’s president, Tayyip Erdogan, dismissed Saudi efforts to blame Khashoggi’s death on rogue operatives.
Erdogan urged Riyadh to search “from top to bottom” to uncover those behind Khashoggi’s death in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2 which prompted global outrage.
Asked by a reporter in the White House Oval Office how the Khashoggi killing could have happened, Trump said: “They had a very bad original concept.
“It was carried out poorly, and the cover-up was one of the worst in the history of cover-ups.”
Khashoggi, a critic of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, was a U.S. resident and Washington Post columnist.
Trump’s comments in recent days have ranged from threatening Saudi Arabia with “very severe” consequences and possible economic sanctions, to more conciliatory remarks highlighting the country’s role as a U.S. ally against Iran and Islamist militants, as well as a major purchaser of U.S. arms.
On Tuesday, Trump said the Khashoggi matter was handled badly by Saudi officials. “Bad deal, should have never been thought of. Somebody really messed up. And they had the worst cover-up ever,” Trump said.
Trump did not give his views on who was ultimately responsible. But Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the United States has identified some of the Saudi government and security officials it believes were involved in Khashoggi’s murder and would take appropriate actions including revoking U.S. visas.
As the crisis unfolded over the past three weeks, Saudi Arabia changed its tune on Khashoggi.
Riyadh initially denied knowledge of Khashoggi’s fate before saying on Saturday he was killed in a fight in the consulate, an account met with skepticism from several Western governments, straining their relations with the world’s biggest oil exporter.
Saudi state media said on Saturday King Salman fired five officials over the killing carried out by a 15-man hit team, including Saud al-Qahtani, a top aide who ran social media for Prince Mohammed. According to two intelligence sources, Qahtani ran Khashoggi’s killing by giving orders over Skype.