"That's not how the kingdom functions, especially with MBS as heir apparent", said Bruce Riedel, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and an expert on Saudi Arabia and the royal family who served more than 30 years at the Central Intelligence Agency.
Gruesome details are emerging in the suspected killing of a Washington Post columnist, who went missing more than two weeks ago in Istanbul. From Iran and Iraq to Syria, Yemen and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the administration gambled that Saudi Arabia, effectively run by the prince, could credibly lead, and willingly pay for, a "Pax Arabica" in a part of the world from which Trump is keen to disengage.
Even as multiple Republican senators have called for action to be taken against Saudi Arabia for what Turkey says was their role in Khashoggi's disappearance, Trump urged caution.
The Middle East Eye website quoted a Turkish source as saying that there was "no attempt to interrogate" Mr Khashoggi but the Saudi team had "come to kill him".
But Pompeo declared he did not want "to talk about any of the facts", while President Donald Trump said innocence must be presumed, drawing a parallel with his US Supreme Court judge nominee who faced sexual assault accusations.
Asked aboard his airplane whether he had heard any audio of Khashoggi's capture, Pompeo declined to comment, but his spokeswoman later told reporters he had not.
Khalil Jahshan with the Arab Centre Washington D.C. says investigators have been leaking disturbing evidence to try and force the Saudis to admit they were involved.
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In this photo from February 1, 2015, Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi speaks at a press conference in Manama, Bahrain.
The secretary of state noted that the Saudi leaders, while denying knowledge of anything that occurred inside the consulate, had committed to accountability "including for Saudi Arabia's senior leaders or senior officials".
On it, Saudi Consul General Mohammed al-Otaibi could be heard on the tape telling those allegedly torturing Khashoggi: "Do this outside; you're going to get me in trouble", the newspaper reported. But now, the tide is turning amid growing outrage over the disappearance and likely death of a US-based journalist inside a Saudi Consulate in Turkey, and that confidence appears to be waning.
"In all probability, the Saudis want Trump to know that his cooperation in covering for the Khashoggi affair is important to the Saudi monarch", said Joshua Landis, a professor at the University of Oklahoma.
The Saudis are long-standing allies of the United States, particularly in combating terrorist networks, but analysts said the credibility of the U.S. -Saudi relationship depends on candor and accountability. "I have to find out what happened", he said.
Fifteen days after he entered the consulate in Istanbul and was never seen coming out, the Saudis have yet to give an explanation. Turkish authorities believe he was murdered, dismembered and possibly transported out of the country in pieces by a 15-man Saudi "hit squad" who flew in and out of the country during the time in question.