Trump trip will be test of abil­ity to rally al­lies

U.S. pres­i­dent to push his plan for ‘Arab NATO’

Windsor Star - - WORLD - NICK ALLEN

WASH­ING­TON • Saudi Ara­bia has rolled out the red car­pet for Don­ald Trump’s first in­ter­na­tional trip as U.S. pres­i­dent as he em­barks on a charm of­fen­sive to gain sup­port for his plans for an “Arab NATO.”

The pres­i­dent’s favourite meal of steak and ketchup will be on the menu dur­ing the visit, along­side tra­di­tional lo­cal cui­sine.

The trip is set to be a cru­cial test of Trump’s abil­ity to rally al­lies and as­sert him­self on the world stage, and a chance to leave be­hind the do­mes­tic tur­moil that has en­gulfed his White House, lead­ing some Democrats to call for his im­peach­ment.

In Riyadh, the first of five stops on a marathon nine­day world tour, Trump is ex­pected to un­veil a ma­jor arms deal, bro­kered by his son-in-law Jared Kush­ner, worth more than US$100 bil­lion over a decade.

Aides said he would also dis­cuss his vi­sion for an “Arab NATO” that would in­clude Saudi Ara­bia, the United Arab Emi­rates, Egypt and Jor­dan aimed at fight­ing ter­ror­ism and coun­ter­ing Iran.

Saudi Ara­bia in­vited lead­ers and rep­re­sen­ta­tives of 55 coun­tries for the visit.

One high­light may turn out to be a speech by Trump on Is­lam, drafted by his ad­viser Stephen Miller. Miller played a key role in draw­ing up the pres­i­dent’s travel ban aimed at bar­ring peo­ple from seven pre­dom­i­nantly Mus­lim coun­tries en­ter­ing Amer­ica.

The White House said Trump would use the speech to em­pha­size the “need to con­front rad­i­cal ide­ol­ogy.”

In Saudi Ara­bia, where Trump’s re­peated de­nun­ci­a­tions of Iran have been wel­comed, U.S. flags lined roads along with pic­tures of Trump and King Sal­man and the mes­sage “To­gether we pre­vail.”

Trump will go on to Is­rael, Rome, Brus­sels for a NATO meet­ing, and Si­cily for the G7.

How­ever, the pres­i­dent’s trou­bles in­ten­si­fied Fri­day as he left for his first for­eign trip, with news emerg­ing that fed­eral in­ves­ti­ga­tors are fo­cus­ing on a cur­rent White House of­fi­cial as a per­son of in­ter­est in their probe of Rus­sian in­flu­ence on the elec­tion.

The probe is about to ac­cel­er­ate as in­ves­ti­ga­tors shift from work that has largely been hid­den from the pub­lic to con­duct­ing in­ter­views and ask­ing for grand jury sub­poe­nas, the Wash­ing­ton Post re­ported.

The New York Times also re­ported Fri­day that Trump told top Rus­sian diplo­mats who vis­ited the Oval Of­fice last week that fir­ing FBI Di­rec­tor James Comey re­lieved “great pres­sure” on him. The re­port, which cited a U.S. of­fi­cial who had seen a doc­u­ment sum­ma­riz­ing the meet­ing, said Trump also told the Rus­sians the FBI di­rec­tor “was crazy, a real nut job.”

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