US President Donald Trump has called Saudi Arabia's response to the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi "the worst cover-up ever".
He added that whoever organised the plot "should be in big trouble".
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said, shortly afterwards, that the US "will punish those responsible" and is revoking visas of 21 identified suspects.
The US has faced pressure to toughen its stance on Saudi Arabia, a key ally.
Speaking to reporters at the White House, Mr Trump said: "They had a very bad original concept, it was carried out poorly and the cover up was the worst in the history of cover-ups."
"Where it should have stopped is at the deal standpoint, when they thought about it," he continued. "Because whoever thought of that idea, I think is in big trouble. And they should be in big trouble."
The Saudi kingdom has provided conflicting accounts of what happened to Khashoggi, a US resident and Washington Post contributor. After weeks of maintaining he was still alive, the authorities now say the 59-year-old was killed in a rogue operation after visiting the Saudi consulate in Turkey.