President Trump told reporters he isn't giving the Saudis cover, despite his reluctance to criticize them after journalist Jamal Khashoggi was last seen entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul earlier this month.
Mr. Trump made the comments during a meeting on slashing regulations and ahead of a Cabinet meeting in which the president said he will ask each Cabinet secretary to cut "5 percent" of their budgets for next year. The president said during that Cabinet meeting that he wants Cabinet members to come back to the next meeting with proposals on how to do that in their respective departments.
Mr. Trump has taken a wait-and-see approach to the journalist's disappearance, while emphasizing that the Saudis deny they had anything to do with the situation and the importance of the U.S.-Saudi relationship.
The president, as he has in the past, emphasized that Khashoggi, who was residing in Virginia, is not a U.S. citizen, before saying he wouldn't say whether the FBI is on the case or not.
"Well he wasn't a citizen of this country, for one thing," Mr. Trump said. "And we're going to determine that. And you don't know whether or not we have, do you? No, but do you know whether or not we've sent the FBI?"
When asked if had sent the FBI, Mr. Trump replied "I'm not going to tell you."
"Why would I tell you?" he then added with a jovial touch.
The U.S. has, Mr. Trump said, asked for audio recordings Turkey suggests it has of Khashoggi's death. Mr. Trump said he would have a long conversation with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who is returning from Turkey and Saudi Arabia as early as Wednesday night.
Pompeo, too, had to go on defense Wednesday, telling reporters after visiting Saudi Arabia and Turkey that he isn't giving the Saudis the benefit of the doubt.
"I keep hearing that we're giving them some benefit of the doubt," Pompeo told reporters. "They're going to do an investigation. And when the investigation comes out we'll evaluate it. It's not about benefit of the doubt, it's that it's reasonable to give them a handful of days more to complete it so they get it right."