A president undertaking a foreign trip is a risky prospect at the best of times since there’s so much that can go wrong. But as Donald Trump leaves for Saudi Arabia on his first overseas trip, he’s under the microscope more than ever.
The tour of the Middle East and Europe — which also takes in Israel, Italy, and Belgium — follows a week in which several revelations damaged the White House and the presidency more than perhaps any other in recent memory, putting Trump’s future as commander-in-chief at risk as well as the job security of many White House officials.
One such official suggested that after losing Trump’s faith in them, the overseas tour could prove their last chance to save their jobs.
“It’s kind of do-or-die,” one official told CNN, in reference to the stakes for both the staff and the president as they journey to Saudi Arabia.
Despite all the tumult at home in the wake of Trump firing FBI director James Comey and revelations he may have divulged classified material to Russian officials, Trump has to stay focused on foreign relations with dignitaries, according to former Secretary of State Madeline Albright.
“He represents the United States, even if we are setting kind of a low bar for this trip — if he doesn’t make mistakes. I hope that there is not one single tweet about anything in the nine days he is gone,” Albright told CNN’s New Day.
— Daily Mail US (@DailyMail) May 19, 2017
Trump has reportedly been complaining about the length of the trip. He’ll be gone for nine days to visit those four countries. That concern, combined with the fact that the events of the last week have made it difficult for the president and senior officials to stay focused on preparing for the trip, can only damage the chances of the excursion going off without a hitch.
Even without the constant revelations about what’s going on behind the White House’s closed doors, the trip would prove a difficult proposition. Trump’s first overseas trip is to the Middle East, a region mired in deep conflict and political maelstrom. And given Trump’s behavior on Twitter, if there’s anything he’s displeased with, there’s every chance that he could create an international incident in 140 characters or fewer.
What’s more, Trump is giving a speech on Islam, in which he will call for unity between the United States and allied Muslim nations against Islamic extremists, and urge religious leaders to “promote a peaceful vision of Islam,” National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster said. That’s a risky topic to tackle, and if Trump delivers poorly chosen phrasing or tone, it could prove highly damaging. But if the speech is successful, he can win new friends and supporters as well as political capital.
Donald Trump is also expected to reveal an arms deal in Saudi Arabia and discuss with officials from Muslim-majority nations on how to counter Iranian posturing in the Middle East.
On the Israel leg of the trip, Trump will meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas. It’s expected that Trump will not confirm his campaign pledge to move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, as that may hamper his hopes of reviving peace negotiations.
Matters do not get much easier for Trump in Europe, where he could encounter a frosty reception following his criticisms of NATO and his aides’ ambivalent feelings about the European Union. He is to meet with Pope Francis in Rome, attend a NATO summit in Brussels, and participate in the G-7 summit in Sicily.
As Donald Trump reaches Saudi Arabia, all eyes are turning to the Middle East. But while there’s news happening in Saudi Arabia, it won’t be too surprising for more bombshell revelations to come out stateside, further throwing the trip into disarray.
[Featured Image by Susan Walsh/AP Images]