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A Turkish forensic police officer at the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul. Photo: Ozan Kose/AFP/Getty Images

While President Trump took a soft stance, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman he had 72 hours to complete his "investigation" into the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, or risk wrecking the kingdom's place on the world stage.

What we're hearing: A source with knowledge of the conversation told Axios that Pompeo told MBS, in their Tuesday meeting, that he needs to "own" the situation. Pompeo stressed the timeline for dealing with the situation is "limited" because global pressure is mounting.

  • The State Department declined to comment on the remarks, some of which were first reported by CNN. A Saudi spokeswoman acknowledged receipt of Axios’ email but did not comment by deadline. 

Why this matters: Defending the Saudis is becoming less tenable for Trump by the day, as a flood of reporting supports that Khashoggi was gruesomely murdered inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

  • MBS has sought to distance himself from the murder, and President Trump, eager to keep doing business with the Saudis, has amplified the Saudi denials and even volunteered the theory that "rogue" killers might have done it. 
  • At the same time, the N.Y. Times reports, "American intelligence officials are increasingly convinced that [the crown prince] is culpable in the killing."

Our thought bubble: Despite the all-smiles photos, it seems like Pompeo had a fairly tense conversation with MBS.

  • Pompeo wanted to stress that this wasn’t something the Saudis could brush past, and to make clear to MBS that the facts are going to come out whether the crown prince likes it or not — so he should act quickly against the perpetrators.
  • Trump’s public rhetoric has been, for the most part, exactly what the Saudis want to hear and provides them with plenty of cover.

Be smart: It’s very likely MBS will find some scapegoats, and claim he knew nothing. And Trump’s public signals have suggested he’s eager to accept Saudi denials, and try to move back to business as usual.

  • The latest ... N.Y. Times lead story: "Saudi agents were waiting when Jamal Khashoggi walked into their country’s consulate in Istanbul two weeks ago. Mr. Khashoggi was dead within minutes, beheaded, dismembered, his fingers severed, and within two hours the killers were gone, according to details from audio recordings described by a senior Turkish official."

Go deeper: What we know about what happened to Jamal Khashoggi

Go deeper

Dominion sends cease and desist letter to My Pillow CEO Mike Lindell

Photo: Stephen Maturen/Getty Images

Dominion Voting Systems on Monday sent a cease and desist letter to My Pillow CEO Mike Lindell over his spread of misinformation related to the 2020 election.

Why it matters: Trump and several of his allies have pushed false conspiracy theories about the company, leading Dominion to take legal action. It's suing pro-Trump lawyer Sidney Powell for defamation and $1.3 billion in damages, and a Dominion employee has sued Trump himself, OANN and Newsmax.

Off the Rails

Episode 5: The secret CIA plan

Photo illustration: Aïda Amer, Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Zach Gibson/Getty Images

Beginning on election night 2020 and continuing through his final days in office, Donald Trump unraveled and dragged America with him, to the point that his followers sacked the U.S. Capitol with two weeks left in his term. This Axios series takes you inside the collapse of a president.

Episode 5: Trump vs. Gina — The president becomes increasingly rash and devises a plan to tamper with the nation's intelligence command.

In his final weeks in office, after losing the election to Joe Biden, President Donald Trump embarked on a vengeful exit strategy that included a hasty and ill-thought-out plan to jam up CIA Director Gina Haspel by firing her top deputy and replacing him with a protege of Republican Congressman Devin Nunes.

Updated 5 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

  1. Health: CDC director defends agency's response to pandemic — CDC warns highly transmissible coronavirus variant could become dominant in U.S. in March.
  2. Politics: Empire State Building among hundreds to light up in Biden inauguration coronavirus tribute.
  3. Vaccine: Fauci: 100 million doses in 100 days is "absolutely" doable.
  4. Economy: Unemployment filings explode again.
  5. Tech: Kids' screen time sees a big increase.