Amid a massive wave of international condemnation, Saudi Arabia might be ready to publicly blame somebody for the apparent killing of Jamal Khashoggi—and it isn't Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Instead, sources tell the New York Times, Saudi officials are preparing to point the finger at Maj. Gen. Ahmed al-Assiri, an intelligence official who serves as an adviser to the prince. The sources say the Saudis plan to claim that Assiri received instructions from the prince to capture Khashoggi for interrogation and the journalist ended up dead after Assiri either misunderstood or exceeded his orders. The Times notes, however, that this explanation would involve admitting that the prince "ordered an operation to abduct a resident of the United States."
A Turkish official tells ABC News that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo heard an audio recording of Khashoggi's alleged murder inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul when he visited Turkey this week, though the State Department denies that he has heard the recording or seen a transcript. President Trump said Thursday that there will be "severe consequences" if Khashoggi was murdered. Trump supporters, however, including some conservative radio hosts and House lawmakers, have been defending the president's reluctance to punish the Saudis by smearing Khashoggi as an "apologist for terrorists" and misrepresenting his reporting on Osama bin Laden in the 1980s, the Washington Post reports. (Pompeo wants the US to give Saudi Arabia more time to complete its investigation.)