On Trump's Visit To Saudi Arabia, Troubles At Home Won't Likely Follow Saudi Arabia is the first stop on President Trump's first overseas trip. Despite his anti-Saudi rhetoric during the campaign, there are reasons Saudi leaders may welcome him.
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Trump Arrives In Saudi Arabia To A Warm Welcome, Despite Troubles At Home

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Trump Arrives In Saudi Arabia To A Warm Welcome, Despite Troubles At Home

Trump Arrives In Saudi Arabia To A Warm Welcome, Despite Troubles At Home

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

President Trump is in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. This is the first stop on his first trip overseas as president, but that doesn't mean that he's managed to escape the political troubles that certainly have been bedeviling him back home. NPR White House correspondent Tamara Keith is in Riyadh. Tam, thanks for being with us.

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: Glad to be with you.

SIMON: And does the team surrounding the president deal with all the headlines that have - I must say that we discover a new one every hour it seems.

KEITH: (Laughter) Yes. You know, just as Air Force One was taking off - hadn't been in the air more than a few minutes - both The New York Times and Washington Post came out with big stories related to the FBI investigation into Russian meddling in the election and possible collusion between members of Trump's team and Russia. The White House put out statements batting one of the stories down, trying to put the other one in a more favorable context, trying to explain why the president would have told the Russian foreign minister that the FBI director was a nut job and that getting rid of him would relieve pressure. Since then, there hasn't really been a chance to ask the president any questions, and his communications team have made themselves pretty scarce. Though, Chief of Staff Ryan Priebus on the flight over told reporters that the president got very little sleep.

SIMON: Quite, if I may, a royal welcome in Saudi Arabia - right? - flags, horses.

KEITH: In - yes, all of those things. There were royal guards lining a red carpet that extended from Air Force One all the way to the terminal, children with flowers, trumpets, jets flying over with red-white-and-blue smoke trails decorating the sky. And then that was actually only the first arrival ceremony. There was a second arrival ceremony at the royal court, where a band played "The Star-Spangled Banner." There were bagpipes. The president was awarded a medal, one of the top honors in the country for for people who are not from Saudi Arabia. Now, President Obama...

SIMON: I've seen that on the television images. It looks like the kind of thing a sommelier wears in a classy restaurant.

KEITH: (Laughter) I don't think I go to those kind of restaurants, Scott.

SIMON: (Laughter).

KEITH: So I don't know what to tell you.

SIMON: I've seen them in movies, but go ahead, yes.

KEITH: (Laughter) But - all of this is to say that there is an affinity between Saudi Arabia and President Trump. There's a lot of optimism from Saudi Arabia's leaders about what a Trump presidency could mean for them. In part, it's stylistic. You know, they all love gold. But also, you know, President Trump has taken a really tough stance on Iran, and that is important to the leaders of Saudi Arabia.

SIMON: Of course, the president's scheduled to give a speech on Islam tomorrow. Do you have any indication about how that - what he's going to put into that talk?

KEITH: Well, I'm pretty sure that he is not going to say that he thinks Islam hates us, which is what he said a little more than a year ago in an interview on CNN. He'll be speaking to 35 - leaders from 35 Muslim-majority countries. His national security adviser says that he will call on them to promote a peaceful vision of a - of Islam. It's about getting these countries to unite against terror groups like ISIS. Just one interesting note - this speech is being written - a bunch of different drafts by a bunch of different people. Two people of note - Steven Miller, who is a young aide who had a big role in the president's travel ban executive order that was targeting Muslim-majority countries, and then Dina Powell, who's a deputy national security adviser and an Egyptian-American.

SIMON: Yeah. And she came to the administration from Goldman Sachs, right?

KEITH: Yes, she did.

SIMON: NPR's White House correspondent Tamara Keith, who is in Riyadh traveling with President Trump, thanks so much for being with us.

KEITH: You're welcome. Glad to be with you.

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