But as Saudi Arabia messed up his response to murder – denying it for weeks, then calling it an accident, and later recognizing evidence of premeditation – Erdogan's behavior shifted.
As criticism has increased, he has evidently calculated that he can inflict a severe blow to Prince Mohammed, because he permanently paralyzes him. When other news in the West threatened to push Khashoggi out of the headlines, Mr. Erdogan's Turkish allies contacted Western journalists, looking for ways to keep him alive.
In Washington, where mid-term elections have eclipsed the relevant news for the past two weeks, Trump's administration should announce economic sanctions against Saudi-related murder officials, according to current and former officials.
At the White House, as well as the State Department and the Treasury Department, officials discussed the imposition of sanctions under the Global Magnitsky Act, which empowers the executive power to punish foreign officials involved in violations of human rights. The announcement could come in days.
The administration also showed a growing impatience with the management of the war in Yemen by Saudi Arabia. Last week, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called on all parties to end hostilities and take part in UN-led negotiations. But the Saudi leaders did not immediately move to limit their air strikes, angering some in the Trump administration, according to former officials.
"The Saudis have intensified, they have intensified the war," said Bruce Riedel, an expert in Saudi Arabia at the Brookings Institution. "It's a very public reproach of both the secretary of state and the Saudi defense secretary, and the administration did not say anything about it, but limiting the supply of air would be their answer."
American support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen has been deeply disputed, especially when civilian casualties have fallen – many children are among the victims – and a famine from the war has gripped the country.
The administration has faced increasing bipartisan criticism of American military support for the Saudi campaign. On Friday, Sen. Todd Young, Republican of Indiana, and Senator Jeanne Shaheen, a New Hampshire Democrat, called for an air refueling mission.