Trump says it 'certainly looks' like journalist Khashoggi is dead

U.S. President Donald Trump talks to reporters about journalist Jamal Khashoggi's disappearance prior to boarding Air Force One for travel to Montana from Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, U.S., October 18, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump said on Thursday it “certainly looks” like U.S.-based Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi is dead.

Khashoggi did not reappear from the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2 where he went to collect documents for his planned marriage. Turkish officials have said they believe the journalist, a critic of Saudi rulers, was murdered inside the building and his body chopped up and removed.

“It certainly looks that way to me,” Trump told reporters at Joint Base Andrews when asked if Khashoggi was dead. “It’s very sad.”

Trump said he was waiting for details from “about three different investigations so we can get to the bottom of” Khoshoggi’s disappearance.

Asked what the consequences would be if Saudi leaders were linked to his disappearance, Trump said: “Well, it’ll have to be very severe. I mean, it’s bad, bad stuff, but we’ll see what happens.”

Turkish sources have told Reuters the authorities have an audio recording indicating Khashoggi, a U.S. resident who wrote columns for the Washington Post, was killed.

The Saudis have strongly denied the allegations but U.S. media outlets have reported they will acknowledge he was killed in a botched interrogation. Trump has speculated without providing evidence that “rogue killers” could be responsible.

Reporting by Jeff Mason; Writing by David Alexander; Editing by Tim Ahmann and Grant McCool