Jamal Khashoggi, 60, is feared to have been killed inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
The Times cited sources as saying the Saudis were planning to say Khashoggi had been killed in an "interrogation gone wrong", done without the monarchy's knowledge.
US President Donald Trump, who dispatched his top diplomat to address the crisis, has given Saudi Arabia the benefit of the doubt in Khashoggi's disappearance, even as US lawmakers pointed the finger at the Saudi leadership, and Western pressure mounted on Riyadh to provide answers. After saying yesterday that King Salman has issued a "flat denial", Trump updated that statement to say that Salman's son, the crown prince, had "totally denied any knowledge of what took place in their Turkish Consulate". Obtained by The Washington Post Passport of suspected Saudi involved in disappearance of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
Khashoggi, a USA resident, Washington Post columnist and leading critic of the powerful Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, vanished after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul two weeks ago to get marriage documents. "I'm going to sanction the hell out of Saudi Arabia", Graham said.
Turkish investigators began to search the consulate in Istanbul on Monday evening, but earlier in the day a cleaning crew was seen entering the consulate, according to The Washington Post.
Police searched the Saudi consulate and said they found evidence Mr Khashoggi died there, according to a senior Turkish official. The Saudi government didn't respond to a request for comment.
The interview was released after U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met with Saudi Arabia's King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman about Khashoggi, who was last seen October 2 entering Riyadh's consulate in Istanbul to fill out paperwork for his upcoming marriage to his Turkish fiancee, Hatice Cengiz.
Pompeo will fly to Ankara on Wednesday for talks with Turkish officials about the case.
Erdogan told journalists Tuesday that police sought traces of "toxic" materials and suggested parts of the consulate had been recently painted, without elaborating. The secretary of state described the visit as "highly successful" and said the Saudis had promised to carry out a "thorough, complete and transparent investigation". "I don't want to get into his mind, but it sounded to me like maybe these could have been rogue killers", said Trump, adding that he hoped to get to the bottom of the matter soon.
Turkish authorities reportedly claim they have tapes proving he was interrogated, tortured and then murdered.
A voice can be heard on the recording inviting the consul to exit the room, the sources said.
Who needs an anonymous Saudi official when you have the president of the United States?
"Of course, it's obvious the whole thing is in the interests of Iran because on the one hand it has caused serious differences between America and Saudi Arabia, and on the other hand, the young prince's reforms in Saudi Arabia have been destroyed in the public opinion of the world", he added.
While the meetings were going on, Trump, in Washington, said on Twitter, "For the record, I have no financial interests in Saudi Arabia (or Russian Federation, for that matter). We just went through that with Justice Kavanaugh and he was innocent all the way as far as I'm concerned", he told the Associated Press.