Here's What's Happening:
- President Trump has returned from his first foreign trip as commander-in-chief. His nine-day schedule took him to Saudi Arabia, Israel, Vatican City, Belgium, and Italy.
- He spent his first Sunday morning back in DC ranting on Twitter about fake news, after multiple new stories and scandals emerged during his trip.
- Not long after Trump first took off, it was reported that the Russia investigation has identified a person of interest inside the White House. Later in the week, Trump son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner was reported to be under investigation.
- On Friday, the Washington Post reported Kushner tried to set up secret and secure communications line between Trump's transition team and the Kremlin in December. Reuters then reported Kushner also had at least three other contacts with Russia's ambassador during the 2016 campaign that have not been disclosed.
Here's video of Trump's meeting with Pope Francis:
With Trump back in the US, that's it for these live updates from BuzzFeed News.
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Donald Trump is back from his first foreign trip — and back on Twitter
During President Trump's first foreign trip, he managed to write not one characteristically inflammatory tweet.
Well, he's back now.
In a series of tweets on Sunday, Trump called the media "Fake News" and criticized the coverage of Republican Greg Gianforte, who recently won a house seat in Montana despite being charged with assault against a reporter.
"Does anyone notice how the Montana Congressional race was such a big deal to Dems & Fake News until the Republican won?" Trump wrote on Twitter. "V was poorly covered."
Trump, who is returning to a White House embroiled in scandal, tweeted repeatedly that the media is lying.
He also argued that unnamed sources in stories likely "don't exist", despite himself repeatedly citing anonymous sources of his own when he led the Obama birther movement. Trump's White House staffers also routinely talk anonymously to reporters.
Unlike Hillary Clinton, he has not tweeted about the murder of two men in Portland who police say were killed standing up to anti-Muslim abuse.
After G7, Angela Merkel says Germany can no longer fully rely on US or UK
After attending a G-7 summit in which President Donald Trump split from other world leaders on issues of climate change, trade, and refugees, German Chancellor Angela Merkel told her country that Germany could no longer rely on the US and UK for help.
"The times in which we could completely rely on others are on the way out. I've experienced that in the last few days," she said Sunday at an election rally in Southern Germany.
"We Europeans truly have to take our fate into our own hands."
Read more here. —Ema O'Connor
Donald Trump has reportedly told people that the US will leave the Paris Agreement
Donald Trump has told Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt and others that the US will leave the Paris Agreement, Axios reported. Trump tweeted on Saturday that he will make a decision next week on the country's involvement in the global accord to tackle climate change.
Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina told CNN that the US should stay in the agreement. He also said that a withdrawal "would be a definitive statement by the president that he believes climate change is a hoax."
If the US chooses to quit the deal, it will be the only G7 member to do so. In Italy on Saturday, at the summit of the world's leading economies, every other nation affirmed their commitment to the Paris agreement, while the US did not.
Defense Secretary James Mattis told CBS that Trump was "curious" during climate talks on his foreign trip.
"I was sitting in on some of the discussions in Brussels, by the way, where climate change came up and the president was open, he was curious about why others were in the position they were in, his counterparts in other nations," he said. "And I'm quite certain the president is wide open on this issue as he takes in the pros and cons of that accord."
Graham said on CNN that if the president quits the accord: "It means that the leader of the Republican party is in a different spot than the rest of the world."
The White House did not immediately respond to request for comment from BuzzFeed News.
Trump is back in Washington
Donald Trump returned to the White House late Saturday, concluding a nine-day overseas tour that the president has declared as a "home run."
The administration is clearly feeling good about the president's first trip abroad, which stretched from the Middle East to Brussels, and concluded with the Group of Seven meeting in Sicily this weekend.
Speaking to reporters on board Air Force One Saturday night, a senior administration official described the trip as "historic" and "unprecedented." The official said that Trump had "built an extraordinary rapport with the other leaders" and promoted US goals and interests in "profound ways that will shape, I think, history for generations to come."
"This trip has left no one with any doubt about who America's friends are," the official added.
But Trump returns to growing political crises at home, as his administration scrambles to deal with the fallout of investigations into the Trump campaign's possible ties to Russia, and with fresh reports that the president's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, is now a focus of the Russia probe. —Grace Wyler
Trump: "We're behind NATO all the way, but we want to be treated fairly"
After refusing to explicitly endorse NATO's collective defense guarantee known as Article 5 during his speech to the military alliance earlier this week, President Donald Trump said Saturday the US was "fully committed" to the bloc.
Speaking to defense personnel stationed at Naval Air Station Sigonella in Italy, Trump recounted the schedule of his first foreign trip, proclaiming it a success.
"I think we hit a home run no matter where we are," he said.
The president said meetings on fighting terrorism underscored his entire trip.
After complaining about other countries failing to meet NATO's goal of spending at least 2% of GDP on defense, Trump said "money is actually starting to pour in."
"Countries would not have been doing what they're doing now had I not been elected, I can tell you that," he said.
"It is only fair to the United States. We want to be treated fairly. We are behind NATO all the way, but we want to be treated fairly," he said. "All of us will be more safe and secure if everyone fulfills their obligations the way they're supposed to, right?"
He said America's vision of the future was one of "peace through strength."
"We're gonna have a lot of strength and we're gonna have a lot of peace," he said.
Ahead of Memorial Day, Trump also praised the service and sacrifice of the military personnel and their families in the audience.
McMaster "would not be concerned" by secret communications with Russia
National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster said Saturday he "would not be concerned" if officials tried to establish a secret, back-channel communications system with Russia.
However, he and other White House staff refused to comment on reports that Trump son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner tried to do just that during the presidential transition period.
Russia's ambassador in Washington told his superiors that Kushner asked him to set up a secret and secure communications line between Trump's transition team and the Kremlin, possibly to shield contact between the two parties, the Washington Post reported Friday.
At an off-camera news conference in Sicily, where President Trump has been participating in the G7 summit, McMaster said that the US has many back-channels for communication with other nations.
"We have backchannel communications with a number of countries," he told reporters. "What that allows you to do is communicate in a discreet manner so I'm not concerned."
However, Kushner reportedly tried to establish such a channel when he was a private citizen before formally entering the White House.
"We're not going to comment on Jared," National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn said. "We're just not going to comment."
Press secretary Sean Spicer also said, "We have nothing," in response to questions on Kushner.
President Trump has broken with protocol by refusing to hold a news conference on this foreign trip.
Cohn said that was because "his agenda has been overflowing. He's been fully consumed with what's going on here."
Major nations officially committed to fighting climate change — with or without Trump
Leaders at the Group of Seven summit signed a document on Saturday that affirms their commitment to the Paris Agreement. The US, however, made no such affirmation, making the country an outlier among the world's leading economies.
The statement says that the six other countries "reaffirm their strong commitment to swiftly implement the Paris Agreement," while the US continues to review the accord and its climate policies.
President Trump tweeted on Saturday: "I will make my final decision on the Paris Accord next week!"
Angela Merkel, leader of Germany, said that the discussion on climate change was "very unsatisfactory."
Read the full story here.
—Alberto Nardelli and Remy Smidt
Russian ambassador reportedly told Kremlin that Jared Kushner wanted secret communications channel with Moscow
Russia's ambassador in Washington told his superiors that Jared Kushner asked him to set up a secret and secure communications line between Trump's transition team and the Kremlin, possibly to shield contact between the two parties, the Washington Post reported Friday.
News of the reported discussion between Ambassador Sergei Kislyak and Moscow, which was intercepted by US officials, was just the latest headline to add to the intrigue surrounding the FBI's investigation into Russian interference in US elections as President Trump wraps up his trip abroad.
Trump's son-in-law reportedly made the suggestion to Kislyak during a meeting in early December, suggesting that Russian diplomatic facilities could be used. Trump's former National Security Advisor, Michael Flynn, also attended the meeting, the Post reported.
The New York Times, citing three people with knowledge of the conversations, reported Friday that Kushner wanted the secret line to discuss strategy in Syria and other policy issues.
According to the Post, Trump's transition team did not approach the Obama administration at the time to establish a connection to Russia — a common practice when a new administration is about to come in.
On Friday night, Reuters reported Kushner also had at least three other contacts with Russia's ambassador during the 2016 campaign that have not been disclosed.
In March, the White House acknowledged Kushner and Flynn met with Russian officials twice in December and April. The other three reported contacts, including two phone calls, have been been disclosed by the administration.
Kushner's request for the secure line and additional contacts with Russian officials are part of investigators' interest into the Trump campaign's interactions with Russian officials.
Reuters reported there were at least 18 undisclosed calls and contacts between Trump associates and Russian officials seven months before the November election.
Kushner's attorney told Reuters he participated in thousands of phone calls during the time in question and had "no recollection" of the call with Russian authorities.
During the meeting in December in Trump Tower in New York, Kushner reportedly suggested arranging a meeting between a Trump representative and a "Russian contact" overseas in a country that was not identified.
In April, the Post reported Erik Prince, the founder of security firm Blackwater and brother of the Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, met with a representative of Vladimir Putin in the Seychelles islands.
US gives up its attempt to prevent listing gender equality as a human right
BRUSSELS — The leaders of the world's leading economies who are meeting in Italy for the annual Group of Seven summit on Friday are set to define gender equality as a human right after the US dropped its opposition, diplomats from a number of G7 states told BuzzFeed News.
Including a reference to "human rights" in the statement G7 leaders will sign in Italy would mark an important change of heart by the Trump administration over the course of just a few days.
Earlier this week, diplomatic sources told BuzzFeed News that negotiators from the US involved in drafting the leaders' statement opposed any wording that would commit the countries to promoting gender equality as human right. The US negotiators argued that framing the issue as a "top priority" was sufficient, the sources said. (The White House did not respond to a request for comment.)
The final statement is expected to say "Gender equality is fundamental for the fulfilment of human rights," a diplomatic source told BuzzFeed News.
Read the full story here.
–Alberto Nardelli and Paul McLeod
Trump meets with Japan PM at G7 summit in Italy
President Trump sat down for a bilateral meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe Friday.
Ahead of the meeting, Trump said that the two would discuss North Korea in addition to other topics.
He said that North Korea was a "world problem" but that "it will be solved, you can bet on that."
Trump tweeted that he was ready to sit down with G7 leaders to discuss "economic growth, terrorism, and security."
Jared Kushner is reportedly the subject of FBI scrutiny as part of investigation into Russian election meddling
Jared Kushner, President Trump's son-in-law and a White House adviser, is a focus in the ongoing investigation into Russian meddling in the presidential election, according to news reports.
NBC News and the Washington Post reported Thursday that Kushner is not accused of wrongdoing, but has become a central figure in the FBI investigation because of meetings he held with Russian figures, including Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak and Russian banker Sergey Gorkov.
The FBI's investigation has for the most part focused on members of the Trump administration who were close to the president, including former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and former campaign manager Paul Manafort, for their ties to Russian officials.
Kushner, however, is the only White House official currently considered a key person of interest in the investigation, according to the Post.
The New York Times reported last month that Kushner failed to disclose his meetings with Kislyak and Gorkov in security clearance forms. His attorney told the paper it was a mistake and they would be amended.
Kushner's attorney, Jamie Gorelick, told NBC News and the Post that his client had volunteered to share what took place during the meetings in question with Congress, and he'd be willing to do so in any other inquiry as well.
Trump's NATO speech leaves out the words allies want to hear
After more than four months in office, President Donald Trump chose not to give members of the NATO alliance what they so desperately sought from him: an explicit endorsement of the military alliance's collective defense guarantee.
Known as Article 5, the clause is considered the most important element of NATO's charter, defining an attack on one nation as an attack against all.
In remarks at NATO's new headquarters in Brussels, Trump instead reprimanded the leaders of the 28-member organization for failing to meet NATO's goal of spending at least 2% of GDP on defense.
"NATO members must finally contribute their fair share and meet their financial obligations," Trump said, standing beside top US allies including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, British Prime Minister Theresa May and French President Emmanuel Macron. "But 23 of the 28 member nations are still not paying what they should be paying."
European leaders looked noticeably tight-lipped as Trump spoke beside a newly-installed piece of the World Trade Center, which served as reminder of the only time Article 5 was invoked in the alliance's history, in response to the 9/11 attacks.
Read more here. —John Hudson and Alberto Nardelli
President Trump tells NATO members they need to "contribute their fair share" during 9/11 memorial dedication ceremony
President Trump pressed NATO members Thursday to pay up, while making a snide comment about the cost of the new NATO headquarters.
"I never asked, once, what the new NATO headquarters cost, I refuse to do that, but it is beautiful," he said before saying member nations need to "contribute their fair share and meet their financial obligations.
Trump was speaking at a dedication ceremony for a 9/11 memorial and the new headquarters in Brussels.
He said that 23 of the 28 nations are negligent in their payments, adding that it is "not fair to the people and the tax payers of the United States."
Following his remarks, the leaders met on the stage for a photo op during which Trump stood silently and did not interact with anyone else.
This is Trump's first visit to NATO, an organization he has been critical of, often calling it "obsolete." He reversed course on that stance last month.
Theresa May is going to warn Trump About US Leaks on the Manchester investigation
British Prime Minister Theresa May said that she will be warning Trump that information shared with the US must be "secure," following a series of leaks of information on the Manchester bombing investigation by US intelligence sources.
Here's what May had to say: "Shortly I will be traveling to a NATO summit where I will be working with international colleagues on defeating terrorism," she said. "I will make clear to President Trump that intelligence that is shared between our law enforcement agencies must remain secure."
Meanwhile Trump issued his own statement calling the alleged leaks "deeply troubling" and said his administration "will get to the bottom of this."
Here's his entire statrment:
The alleged leaks coming out of government agencies are deeply troubling. These leaks have been going on for a long time and my Administration will get to the bottom of this. The leaks of sensitive information pose a grave threat to our national security. I am asking the Department of Justice and other relevant agencies to launch a complete review of this matter, and if appropriate, the culprit should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. There is no relationship we cherish more than the Special Relationship between the United States and the United Kingdom.
Read more here.
Trump's team told EU leaders they're worried Brexit could cost US jobs
BRUSSELS - US officials expressed concern that jobs in the US would be lost because of Brexit during a meeting between President Donald Trump and the presidents of the European Council and Commission, Donald Tusk and Jean-Claude Juncker, EU sources have told BuzzFeed News.
The meeting, which lasted a little over an hour, took place in a friendly and constructive atmosphere, the EU sources said.
In the wake of Britain's referendum to leave the EU, Trump had described the outcome of the vote vote as a "beautiful, beautiful thing". And after meeting UK prime minister Theresa May earlier this year the President said Brexit was going to be a "wonderful thing" for the UK.
In addition to Brexit, the EU leaders and Trump discussed trade, a range of foreign policy issues – including Russia, Ukraine and North Korea – climate change, and counter-terrorism.
Read the full story here.
Donald Trump meets with European Union leaders in Brussels
President Trump met with European Union leaders in Brussels Thursday on the seventh day of his international trip.
In the morning, he met with Donald Tusk, president of the European Council and Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European Commission. According to the AP, Trump was also accompanied by Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis.
Following that meeting, Trump met with newly-elected French president Emmanuel Macron after which, the two will have a working lunch.
Ahead of their one-on-one meeting, Trump dodged two questions asked by a reporter after both presidents delivered brief remarks.
He was asked whether he thought Mike Flynn should cooperate with the Russia investigations and if he had any comment about British concerns about sharing intelligence with the US following Manchester bombing investigation leaks. He replied only to say, "thank you," before reporters left the room.
Trump was met by protests when he arrived in Brussels on Wednesday.
Later in the day, Trump will participate in NATO ceremonies and a working dinner with NATO leaders.
The meeting will focus on the fight against terrorism and a fairer sharing of burden, NATO spokesperson Oana Lungescu told BuzzFeed News.
Not on the agenda – Russia. That's because the alliance wants to please Trump, the leader of the world's most powerful military, in his first meeting with the group.
Attorney General Sessions failed to disclose meetings with Russian officials on security clearance form
Attorney General Jeff Sessions didn't include meetings with a Russian ambassador when he listed contacts with foreign governments as part of his application for security clearance.
The omission was first confirmed by the Department of Justice to CNN, and comes after it was revealed in March that Sessions didn't disclose those meetings to Congress during his confirmation hearing. After the meetings were publicized, Sessions corrected the congressional record.
In a statement, the Department of Justice said Sessions had been directed to only disclose contacts with foreign governments that took place outside of his official work as a US senator.
"As a United States Senator, the Attorney General met hundreds — if not thousands— of foreign dignitaries and their staff," DOJ spokesman Ian Prior said. "In filling out the SF-86 form, the Attorney General's staff consulted with those familiar with the process, as well as the FBI investigator handling the background check, and was instructed not to list meetings with foreign dignitaries and their staff connected with his Senate activities."
Read more here.
Trump on his meeting with the Pope: "Great"
President Trump gave more details to reporters about his audience with the Pope on Tuesday morning following a bilateral meeting with Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni.
When asked how his meeting with Pope Francis went, the president said: "Great... He is something. We had a fantastic meeting," according to a White House pool report.
"We're liking Italy very much... We're liking Italy very, very much and it was an honor to be with the pope," Trump added.
— Francis Whittaker
Trump meets Pope Francis for first time
President Trump arrived at the Vatican and met Pope Francis for the first time on Wednesday morning.
The leader of the Roman Catholic faith, who is renowned for his modest lifestyle, met the billionaire businessman in the Sala del Tronetto, the room of the little throne, at around 8.30am (local time) in the Vatican.
Trump was joined on the visit by his wife Melania, his daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was also part of the US delegation.
The president then had a one-on-one meeting with the pontiff in his private study, which lasted around 30 minutes, according to the White House pool report.
Following the meeting, Trump was heard saying to the Pope: "Thank you. Thank you. I won't forget what you said."
Trump gave the Pope a case of books from Martin Luther King, remarking "I think you will enjoy them."
The Pope gave Trump a medal by a Roman artist depicting an olive branch, depicting peace. Trump was heard to remark "we could use peace." Trump also received three books.
Trump and Pope Francis have clashed with each other in the past. The pope spoke out against Trump's intention to build a wall across the south of America, telling a congregation back in February to "build bridges" not walls. At the time, Trump hit back, labelling the Pope's comment's disgraceful and calling him a pawn of the Mexican government.
–Rose Troup Buchanan and Francis Whittaker
Trump is reportedly hiring his longtime go-to lawyer as private counsel in the Russia probe
President Donald Trump is reportedly preparing to hire New York attorney Marc Kasowitz as a private attorney to represent him in the federal investigation into Russian influence in the 2016 campaign.
Multiple outlets reported Tuesday evening that Trump had chosen Kasowitz from a short-list that, according to The Washington Post, included some of the nation's premier white-collar defense lawyers. Kasowitz is a co-founder of the New York law firm Kasowitz Benson Torres, where he has a broad litigation practice.
That Trump would turn to Kasowitz is no surprise. Kasowitz has represented Trump and his eponymous companies in a variety of matters for more than 15 years — Trump is the first person listed under "Notable Representations" on Kasowitz's law firm bio page.
— Jim Dalrymple II
Senate Intelligence Committee Will Subpoena Flynn's Businesses
The top senators of the Senate intelligence committee said Tuesday they will subpoena two of former national security adviser Michael Flynn's businesses for documents, Flynn Intel LLC and Flynn Intel Inc., following his decision to plead the fifth.
The committee is currently looking into Flynn's ties to Russia and the country's interference in the 2016 election.
"While we disagree with Gen. Flynn's lawyer's interpretation of taking the fifth, it is even more clear that a business does not have a right to take the fifth if it's a corporation, so ... we keep all options on the table, " said Sen. Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the committee.
The senators also announced they had sent a letter to Flynn's counsel questioning whether he could plead the fifth when it came to producing documents to the committee.
Warner also told reporters the committee is expected to ask Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats to testify regarding "alleged conversations" he had with President Donald Trump.
— Lissandra Villa
Former CIA chief says he's aware of contacts between Russian officials and people working on Trump's campaign
Former CIA director John Brennan told the House Intelligence Committee on Tuesday that he was aware of "information and intelligence that revealed contacts between Russian officials and US persons involved in the Trump campaign."
When pressed on the matter by Republican Rep. Trey Gowdy, Brennan said that "I saw interaction," but "I don't have sufficient information" to determine whether there was coordination.
"It should be clear to everyone that Russia brazenly interfered in our 2016 presidential election process, and that they undertook these activities despite our strong protests and explicit warning that they not do so," Brennan said.
He added that in August, he spoke with Alexander Bortnikov, head of Russia's Federal Security Bureau. During that conversation, Brennan said he warned Bortnikov against Russian interference in the election and that a campaign to interfere would "backfire" and hurt relations between the two countries. Brennan said Bortnikov denied the charges but said he would pass along the message to Putin.
Brennan's fuller comments are below.
The president and first lady lay a wreath at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial museum in Israel
President Trump and the first lady visited the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial museum in Israel Tuesday morning, accompanied by Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and his wife Sara.
The two held hands as they were invited to lay a wreath on a stone slab on the ground. The president also rekindled the eternal flame.
After signing a guestbook, Trump delivered some remarks saying the Holocaust was "the most savage crime against God and his children."
Trump condemns Manchester attack during press conference with Palestinian leader
President Trump held a press conference with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Bethlehem, during which he condemned the suicide bombing in Manchester, northwest England on Monday night.
"I extend my deepest condolences... We stand in absolute solidarity with the people of the United Kingdom," Trump said. "So many young, beautiful innocent people living and enjoying their lives murdered by evil losers in life. I won't call them monsters because they would like that term — they would think that is a great name. I will call them from now on losers, because that's what they are, they're losers."
Read more on Trump's remarks here
Trump reportedly asked intelligence officers to publicly deny the existence of Russian interference in the election
President Trump asked two intelligence officers to push back against the FBI's investigation into possible collusion between his campaign and the Russian government, the Washington Post reported Monday, citing current and former officials.
Trump reportedly asked the director of national intelligence, Daniel Coats, and the director of the National Security Agency, Adm. Michael S. Rogers, in two separate appeals to push back against the FBI probe.
The president's requests, which were denied, came after now-fired FBI director James Comey told the House Intelligence Committee on May 20 that his agency was investigating "the nature of any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government and whether there was any coordination between the campaign and Russia's efforts."
The conversation between Trump and Rogers was reportedly documented in an internal memo by senior officials with the National Security Agency. It was not clear whether there was any documentation of Trump's request to Coats, according to the Washington Post. Such memos could be made available for the special counsel now overseeing the Russia probe as evidence that Trump attempted to hinder it.
—Michelle Broder Van Dyke
Ousted national security adviser Michael Flynn seemingly lied to the Pentagon, Democratic congressman alleges
Former national security adviser Michael Flynn misled the Pentagon about his ties to Russia, according to a Democratic congressman.
In a letter obtained by BuzzFeed News Monday, Rep. Elijah Cummings, of Maryland, wrote that the House Oversight Committee "has in our possession documents that appear to indicate General Flynn lied to the investigators who interviewed him in 2016 as part of his security clearance renewal."
Cummings goes on to cite a report indicating Flynn claimed to have been paid by "US companies" for a December 2015 trip to Moscow, where he ate dinner with Vladimir Putin. However, Flynn actually received $45,000 for the visit from Russian TV network RT.
Cummings' letter also states that RT paid for Flynn's airfare, hotel, and expenses.
The letter criticizes Rep. Jason Chaffetz — a Utah Republican who chairs the House Oversight Committee — for blaming Flynn's vetting on the Obama administration and for not issuing a subpoena for the White House over Flynn.
"We need to know what the president, vice president, White House Counsel, and other top officials knew about General Flynn — and when they knew it," Cummings wrote.
Flynn — President Trump's first national security adviser — was fired in February after it was revealed that he failed to disclose his contact with the Russian ambassador to Vice President Mike Pence. He has continued to be the source of continued controversy as the FBI, and later a special counsel, have carried out an investigation into Russia's influence on last year's presidential election.
—Jim Dalrymple II
President Trump says that he never used the word Israel when he shared intelligence with the Russians
President Trump stopped reporters after delivering remarks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to clarify that he did not use to the word Israel when he shared intelligence with the Russians at the White House.
"I never mentioned the word or the name Israel. Never mentioned during that conversation," Trump said. "They're all saying I did, so you have another story wrong. Never mentioned the word Israel."
That response came during a spray with reporters ahead of a bilateral meeting with Netanyahu when Bloomberg's Margaret Talev asked Netanyahu if he had any concerns about intelligence cooperation with the US. Before Trump's response, Netanyahu said that the "intelligence cooperation was terrific. It's never been better."
Media reports about the meeting did not say that Trump mentioned Israel, only that he shared highly classified information on an ISIS plot with the Russians.
Last week, two Israeli intelligence officials confirmed to BuzzFeed News that the information shared with the Russians, syncs up with information shared with the US by Israel.
Former national security adviser Michael Flynn is expected to invoke the Fifth Amendment today
Former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn is expected to invoke the Fifth Amendment on Monday with regard to the Senate Intelligence Committee's subpoena seeking documents, a source told the AP.
Flynn was subpoenaed by the committee to turn over any documents relevant to the investigation into Trump campaign associates' connections to Russia.
On Thursday, the chair of the committee, Sen. Richard Burr, said that Flynn would not be complying with the subpoena but later backtracked that statement and said they hadn't received a "definitive answer" from Flynn's lawyer.
A 2013 tweet from White House press secretary Sean Spicer began recirculating Monday morning. In the tweet, Spicer implies that someone who has "nothing to hide" has no reason to plead the fifth.
A top Trump aide boasted there wasn't a single protester in Saudi Arabia — and ignores the severe punishments protesters can face there
Speaking on CNBC Monday morning, US secretary of commerce Wilbur Ross said Saudi Arabia is "liberalizing their society," and lauded the country for the lack of protesters visible during Trump's visit.
"Clearly there's a big sea change underway," he said. "I think the other thing that was fascinating to me was there was not a single a single hint of a protester anywhere there during the whole time we were there. Not one guy with a bad placard."
CNBC presenter Becky Quick challenged Ross on his comments: "But Secretary Ross that may not necessarily be because they don't have those feelings there but because they control people and don't allow them to come express their feelings like we do here."
"In theory that might be true but boy there was certainly no sign of it. There wasn't anything. The mood was a genuinely good mood," Ross went on.
"At the end of the trip when I was getting back on the plane the security guards from the Saudi side who had been helping us over the weekend all wanted to pose for a big photo op, and then they gave me two gigantic bushels of dates. That was a pretty from the heart genuine gesture and it really touched me."
However, people have been quick to criticize Ross for ignoring Saudi Arabia's history of imposing severe punishments, including death, for protesters.
Trump has become the first sitting president to visit the Western Wall in Jerusalem
Trump has arrived in Israel for his two-day visit
President Trump has just arrived in Tel Aviv for two-day visit to Israel where he is expected to attempt to revive the dormant Middle East peace process.
Trump was welcomed at the airport by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He will spend Monday meeting visiting religious sites and meeting with officials.
Speaking briefly at the airport, Trump said he was visiting Israel "to reaffirm the unbreakable bond between the United States and the state of Israel," adding: "We have before us a rare opportunity to bring security and stability and peace to this region and to its people."
Trump then traveled to Jerusalem, where he participated in a very brief but cordial public chat with Israeli President Rueven Rivlin.
"I've seen such a different feeling towards Israel, from countries that may have not felt well towards Israel, in recent times," Trump said. "There's a great feeling for peace throughout the Middle East ... People have had enough of the bloodshed and the killing. What we did over the weekend [in Saudi Arabia], they say there has never been anything like that before."
However, Trump may face some tough questions from Israeli officials about reports last week that stated he disclosed sensitive Israeli intelligence to Russian officials and over a new $110 billion arms deal he announced in Saudi Arabia.
On Sunday, the Associated Press reported Netanyahu had ordered all his cabinet ministers to attend the official greeting of Trump, after reports some of them planned to skip the event.
On Tuesday, Trump will meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. During a meeting with Abbas at the White House in March, Trump stated achieving peace is "something that I think is, frankly, maybe not as difficult as people have thought over the years."
However, some Palestinian activists are planning a "Day of Rage" and will stage public demonstrations against Trump during his visit to the West Bank. In a statement, the Supreme National Leadership Committee said Palestinian factions "affirm their rejection of the American position, which is biased in favor of the occupation."
Middle Eastern activists say Trump doesn't really care about human rights
Moroccan historian and human rights advocate Maati Monjib is currently being prosecuted for vague but grave crimes against national security by the country's shadowy security forces. On Wednesday, the 55-year-old faces yet another court hearing. So it was with disappointment that he watched US President Donald Trump deliver a lengthy speech to the Muslim world without once mentioning "human rights," "democracy," or "freedom."
"At least he's saying bluntly that the US is not interested in human rights and democracy of the world," he said in a telephone interview from Rabat, the Moroccan capital. "It is only interested in the promotion of the economy and American business, and the huge amount of money in the contracts with the Saudis signify the single-minded orientation of the Trump administration: business and only business."
Read more here.
US Muslims noticed something missing from Trump's speech — themselves
In the week before President Donald Trump's Islam-focused speech in Saudi Arabia, American Muslims collectively cringed over the big question: Just how bad could it be?
Not as bad as imagined, it turns out, but still unimpressive.
US Muslims said Trump's address Sunday at a summit in Riyadh was remarkable mainly for its blandness – shopworn lines about good versus evil from a president who once blamed his Saudi hosts for 9/11, who floated the idea of shutting down mosques, and who said, "I think Islam hates us."
Read more here.
Trump told Middle Eastern nations not to "wait for America" to combat terrorism
In a high-stakes speech delivered to Muslim leaders in Saudi Arabia, President Donald Trump demanded Middle Eastern nations rid themselves of terrorism without waiting for America's help. He also announced the signing of multiple agreements with Saudi Arabia and other nations to counter terrorism.
Trump said the US "was not here to lecture" but instead to "offer partnership — based on shared interests and values — to pursue a better future for us all."
He went on to outline how he believes the countries present should combat terrorism — culturally, financially, and judicially — and advised them not to wait for America's lead.
"The Middle East cannot wait for the American people to crush to enemy for them; the nations of Middle East have to decide what kind of future they want for themselves, their country, and for their families and children," Trump said. "It is a choice between two futures, a choice America cannot make for you."
Apparently without going off-script, Trump delivered an unusually traditionally rhetorical speech, repeatedly demanding the leaders and people of the Middle East "drive terrorists out" of their communities and countries.
"Drive them out of your places of worship, drive them out of your community, drive them out of your Holy land, and drive them out of this Earth," he said.
Trump touched briefly upon the global refugee crisis, commending Jordan, Turkey, and Lebanon for taking in people from neighboring countries. He told the other nations present that a way to stop the flow of refugees from their countries was to protect the "equality" of their "women, children, and the followers of all faiths."
He described the great touristic and economic potential of many of the countries present, and reprimanded the leaders for dealing financially with members of terrorist organizations such as Hezbollah in the past. He called out Iran directly, accusing its government of "fueling the fire of sectarian terror," bolstering Assad's regime in Syria and helping that government "commit terrible crimes," such as the chemical bombing of civilians.
Toward the end of his speech Trump called on the gathered leaders to come together to confront "the crisis of Islamist extremism and the Islamist terror groups it inspires."
"It means standing together against the murder of innocent Muslims, the oppression of women, the persecution of Jews, and the slaughter of Christians. Religious leaders must make this absolutely clear: Barbarism will deliver you no glory — piety to evil will bring you no dignity. If you choose the path of terror, your life will be empty, your life will be brief, and your soul will be condemned."
It was an important speech for Trump, given his past comments about Islam. During the campaign trail, Trump called for a "total and complete shutdown" of Muslims entering the US, and as president he twice tried to block travel to America from several Muslim-majority nations. Those bans have been blocked by courts. Trump has also said "Islam hates us" on the trail and has relished repeating the phrase "radical Islamic terrorism," which critics say paints the religion with an unfair and broad brush.
Most recently, Muslim advocates in the US said a plan to blacklist the Muslim Brotherhood — and, by extension, target US Islamic groups — no longer seems imminent from the White House.
—Ema O'Connor & Alicia Melville-Smith
Trump's speech pushed back
Trump's speech has been pushed back to 10 a.m. ET, Fox News is reporting.
It was supposed to be broadcast live at 9:20 a.m. ET.
Trump to tell Muslim leaders they must confront "the crisis of Islamist extremism"
President Trump will give a widely-anticipated speech on how to battle extremism from Saudi Arabia in just over an hour.
Excerpts of the speech, released by the White House Sunday morning, see Trump calling for unity across the Muslim world in the fight against terrorism.
Trump is expected to tell leaders that America is "not here to lecture — we are not here to tell other people how to live, what to do, who to be, or how to worship. Instead, we are here to offer partnership."
He will say that defeating terrorism "means honestly confronting the crisis of Islamist extremism and the Islamist terror groups it inspires."
However, Trump will reportedly not say "radical Islamic terrorism" during the speech, a phrase he repeated with great relish on the campaign trail.
His National Security Adviser, Gen. McMaster, has reportedly pushed Trump to remove the phrase from his speeches, which critics say paints and entire religion with a broad brush
—Alicia Melville-Smith & Tom Namako
Trump can't get enough of the Egyptian president's shoes
President Donald Trump apparently had high praise for the footwear worn by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi Sunday.
"Love your shoes. Boy, those shoes. Man," he gushed, according to the White House pool report. It was not clear what exactly Trump liked about Sisi's shiny, but otherwise apparently normal, black dress shoes.
The meeting was one of several Trump is holding with Arab leaders ahead of his big speech in Saudi Arabia Sunday. And as the shoe compliment suggests, his confab with Sisi was a continuation of a lovefest between the two leaders that began during the Egyptian president's visit to Washington in April.
"We've really been through a lot together, positively," Trump said Sunday.
Trump meets with Arab leaders ahead of speech on fighting extremism
President Donald Trump is spending the second day of his first overseas trip meeting with Arab leaders.
Trump met with leaders from Bahrain, Qatar, Egypt, Kuwait, and several other countries on Sunday.
During his meeting with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi, Trump said he would accept an invitation to visit Egypt. Trump said the visit would happen before long.
Through a translator, el-Sissi said Trump "had a unique personality" that allowed him "to do the impossible."
Trump replied: "I agree."
Melania Trump is going bare-headed in Saudi Arabia — but people there don't seem to mind
Neither Melania nor Ivanka Trump has chosen to cover their heads while in Saudi Arabia, apparently contradicting Donald Trump's previous admonitions about such a fashion statement.
The Trump ladies' decision to go bare-headed is not itself remarkable — many female Western political figures make the same choice while traveling in Saudi Arabia.
But a lot of people have pointed out that in 2015, Trump slammed then-First Lady Michelle Obama for not covering head, tweeting that the move "insulted" Saudis.
But while the president may be offended by his wife's decision not to cover her head, the Saudis don't seem to mind. On Sunday, the day after the Trumps arrival, Saudi news reportedly praised the First Lady for her "elegantly respectful" look.
Trump's national security adviser drops new hints about the president's speech Sunday
President Donald Trump's national security advisor, H.R. McMaster, teased his boss's much anticipated speech in Saudi Arabia, hinting that the president may drop the phrase "radical Islamic terrorism" from his remarks.
"I think what the president will point out is the vast majority – the vast majority of victims from these people are Muslims," McMaster said in an interview with ABC's George Stephanopoulos set to air Sunday. "And of course the Muslim world is very cognizant of that, having born witness to and experienced directly this humanitarian catastrophe that's going on across the greater Middle East and beyond."
McMaster's remarks are the latest suggestion that Trump may temper some of his more virulent anti-Muslim rhetoric when he delivers his first major overseas address as president Sunday.
Though Trump made a point of using the phrase "radical Islamic terrorism" during his presidential campaign — and won praise from conservatives for doing so — drafts of his speech reportedly abandon this type of inflammatory language, the Associated Press reports. Instead, the president is expected to cast the fight against Islamic terrorism as "a battle between good and evil," while calling on Arab leaders to "drive out the terrorists from your places of worship."
The speech is being written by senior policy advisor Stephen Miller, with input from McMaster, and Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner. McMaster has previously urged Trump to refrain from using the phrase "radical Islamic terrorism," and argued that it hinders US counter-terrorism goals.
Still, as of Saturday, Trump reportedly had not yet signed off on a final draft of the address. And when asked directly whether Trump would avoid using the term "radical Islamic terrorism," McMaster hedged a bit.
"The president will call it whatever he wants to call it," he told ABC. "Whatever we call it, we recognize that these are not religious people. And, in fact, these enemies of all civilizations, what they want to do is to cloak their criminal behavior under this fall idea of some kind of religious war."
— Grace Wyler
Trump, Tillerson, and Ross join the dancing in Saudi Arabia
During a welcoming ceremony at Murabba Palace in Saudi Arabia on Saturday evening, President Trump, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, and Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross participated in a traditional dance.
The male-only dance, held before a state dinner in Riyadh between Trump and the Saudi king, involved swaying and holding swords.
McCain slams Trump for allowing Russians in the Oval Office
Sen. John McCain slammed President Trump on Saturday for hosting two Russian officials in the Oval Office amid the investigation into Moscow's interference in last year's election.
Trump met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Russia's ambassador to the US, Sergey Kislyak, inside the Oval Office on May 10, a day after he fired FBI director James Comey, who was investigating his campaign's possible ties to Russia.
During the meeting, the president revealed highly classified Israeli intelligence about ISIS to the Russians.
"I do not believe that Mr. Lavrov should be allowed in the Oval Office, and I think it's pretty obvious they turned it into their propaganda advantage," McCain told the Arizona Republic newspaper.
"These are the same people that tried to change the outcome of our election," McCain said. "I don't believe they had an effect, but they tried. These are the same people who used precision weapons to strike hospitals in Aleppo in what clearly qualifies as war crimes. They took Crimea, invaded Ukraine."
While the White House barred all US media from the meeting, a Russian photographer was allowed inside the Oval Office.
According to a New York Times report, Trump told the Russian officials that by firing the "nut job" Comey he had eased the "great pressure" he faced because of the Russia investigation. — Tasneem Nashrulla
Tillerson says he has "no knowledge" of White House staffer under Russia probe
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Saturday he had "no knowledge" about the person of interest at the White House reportedly being investigated in the Russia probe.
During a press briefing with the Saudi Arabian foreign minister, Tillerson responded to a Washington Post report that a current White House official close to the president was being investigated as part of the probe into possible collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign.
"I do not have any information or knowledge regarding the person of interest that's been referenced," Tillerson said.
At the briefing, Saudi foreign minister Adel al-Jubeir said that President Trump and Saudi King Salman "had a very, very good and very wide-ranging conversation" about the challenges facing the region, including the "scourge of terrorism."
The two leaders signed signed a Joint Strategic Vision Statement "promising close collaboration to counter violent extremism, disrupt the financing of terrorism, and advance defense cooperation," the White House said in a statement. The deal includes nearly $110 billion in American arms sales, part of $350 billion in defense and economic investments over 10 years that the White House claims will create thousands of American jobs.
"That was a tremendous day," Trump told reporters after his meeting. "Tremendous investments into the United States and our military community is very happy. Hundreds of billions of dollars of investments into the United States and jobs, jobs, jobs." — Grace Wyler and Tasneem Nashrulla
Trump gave a "thumbs up" gesture in Saudi Arabia — but is it considered rude?
Supporters and detractors of President Trump seized on a photo of him giving a thumbs up during his visit to Saudi Arabia on Saturday, hours after the US embassy there had advised reporters that the gesture was considered rude.
But here's the thing: it's actually not really taboo at all. And The whole controversy has confused a lot of Saudis.
Read more here. —David Mack
People are debating whether or not Trump bowed before the king
When President Trump arrived in Saudi Arabia on Saturday and met King Salman, Trump did not bow, shaking the king's hand instead.
Conservatives praised the move, primarily due to the fact that when President Obama met the Saudi king in 2009, he greeted him by bowing (the Obama White House denied this, saying he was leaning over to shake his hand).
However, people are now wondering if Trump did, in fact, bow before the Saudi king later on Saturday. When the king presented him with Saudi Arabia's highest civilian honor, Trump ducked down to allow the king to place the collar over his head. Then, Trump bent down again for just a moment, in what many people compared to a "curtsy."
Now, many people are criticizing the lack of outrage from the right as hypocritical, while some Trump supports are defending the president.
Read more here, and take the poll on what you think Trump actually did.
Trump awarded Saudi Arabia's highest civilian honor
Trump has just received Saudi Arabia's highest civilian honor from King Salman at a ceremony in the Royal Court in Riyadh.
The king said the Collar of Abdulaziz Al Saud was being awarded to Trump for "his quest to enhance security and stability in the region and around the world."
The honor has previously been bestowed to Russian President Vladimir Putin, British Prime Minister Theresa May, and President Barack Obama.
Trump has arrived in Saudi Arabia to start his first international trip as president
President Donald Trump has landed in Saudi Arabia after an overnight flight from Washington to start his first international trip as president.
Trump was greeted by King Salman of Saudi Arabia inside the airport terminal after the president stepped off Air Force One at about 10am (local time).
Trump then travelled to his hotel for a few hours of rest before beginning the day's meetings.
Trump is the only American president to make Saudi Arabia, or any majority Muslim country, his first stop overseas as president.
Following Saudi Arabia, Trump will travel to Israel, have an audience with Pope Francis at the Vatican, and attend the NATO summit in Brussels, and the Group of 7 meeting in Sicily.
Russian officials reportedly bragged that they could use Michael Flynn to influence Trump
Russian officials bragged during last year's presidential campaign that they could use Michael Flynn to influence Donald Trump, CNN reported Friday.
The bragging reportedly was intercepted by US intelligence officials and showed that the Russians believed they had cultivated a strong relationship with Flynn, who would go on to become Trump's national security advisor, to consider him an ally.
The comments troubled US officials at the time, CNN reported, and some moved to limit how much sensitive information they shared with Flynn.
"This was a five-alarm fire from early on, the way the Russians were talking about him," a former Obama administration official told CNN.
Trump ultimately fired Flynn after it was revealed that he failed to disclose his contact with the Russian ambassador to Vice President Mike Pence. However, the president has continued to defend Flynn and has privately said he should have kept him on, Politico reported Friday.
Earlier Friday, CNN also reported that White House lawyers had begun to research impeachment procedures as new controversies over a probe into Russia's election influence emerge almost daily.
— Jim Dalrymple II
James Comey has agreed to testify at the Senate Intelligence Committee in open session
Former FBI Director James Comey has agreed to testify in open session before the Senate Intelligence Committee sometime after Memorial Day.
Comey is expected to testify on his role in the investigation into Russian interference in US elections, but will likely be asked about a number of media reports surrounding his sudden dismissal from the FBI and memos he wrote detailing his conversations with President Trump, including one where the president asked him to drop the investigation into former National Security Advisor Mike Flynn.
"I am hopeful that he will clarify for the American people recent events that have been broadly reported in the media," committee chairman Sen. Richard Burr said in a statement.
Comey's decision comes about a week after the former director had reportedly declined a previous invitation shortly after he was fired to testify before the same committee behind closed doors.
"I hope that former Director Comey's testimony will help answer some of the questions that have arisen since Director Comey was so suddenly dismissed by the president," Virginia Sen. Mark Warner said in a statement.
Trump to describe fight against radical Islam as a “battle between good and evil"
President Trump will describe the fight against radical Islam as a "battle between good and evil" during a speech Sunday, the Associated Press reported Friday.
The AP obtained a draft of the speech, which will be delivered in Saudi Arabia during Trump's first foreign trip as president. According to the AP, the draft also abandons some of the harsher anti-Muslim language Trump used while campaigning.
In addition, the speech will reportedly call for new partnerships with US allies in the Middle East, and does not mention democracy and human rights.
"We are not here to lecture — to tell other peoples how to live, what to do or who to be," the AP reported the document as stating. "We are here instead to offer partnership in building a better future for us all."
Trump has apparently not signed off on a final draft, however.
— Jim Dalrymple II
Trump called James Comey a "nut job," told Russians firing him took pressure off Russia probe
President Trump told Russian officials earlier this month that former FBI Director James Comey was a "nut job," and said firing him took care of "great pressure" he had been facing, the New York Times reported Friday.
The reported conversation between Trump and the Russians happened on May 10, when Russia's ambassador, Sergey Kislyak, and foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, visited the White House one day after Comey was fired.
During the meeting, Trump told the Russians about Comey's termination and called the ousted director "crazy, a real nut job," the Times reported.
"I faced great pressure because of Russia," Trump reportedly added. "That's taken off."
The comments were recorded in a document summarizing the meeting, which an unnamed US official read to the Times.
The White House responded to the Times' story in a statement saying Trump "has always emphasized the importance of making deals with Russia." It went on to accuse Comey of "grandstanding and politicizing the investigation into Russia's actions," creating "unnecessary pressure on our ability to engage and negotiate with Russia."
"The investigation would have always continued, and obviously, the termination of Comey would not have ended it," the White House added. "Once again, the real story is that our national security has been undermined by the leaking of private and highly classified conversations."
The May 10 meeting had already become highly controversial after it was revealed, earlier this week, that Trump shared classified information with the Russians.
The president has also faced backlash for firing Comey, who had been leading an investigation into Russia's influence in last year's presidential election. Many of the president's critics — citing a continuous string of headlines in recent weeks — have accused him of firing Comey in an effort influence that investigation.
News that Trump described Comey's firing as a relief from "pressure" over Russia is likely to bolster their argument.
— Jim Dalrymple II
Moments after Trump took off, reports emerged that the Russia probe has reached the White House
The probe into Russia's influence on the US presidential election has identified a current White House official as a significant person of interest, the Washington Post reported Friday, just moments after President Trump departed for his first international trip.
The Post cited unnamed government sources who said the official is someone close to the president. The person of interest was not identified.
The probe has been a source of significant controversy and headache for Trump, who has said he hopes it ends quickly.
The unnamed officials told the Post that the investigation remains focused on former members of Trump's team, such as Michael Flynn and Paul Manafort. However, the revelation that a current official is now a person of interest is significant because it indicates the probe is reaching the top levels of the government, officials told the Post.
In a statement Friday, the White House responded by saying that "a thorough investigation will confirm that there was no collusion between the campaign and any foreign entity."
— Jim Dalrymple II
NATO critic Stephen Miller is writing Trump's NATO speech
President Donald Trump has tapped Stephen Miller, a senior adviser at the White House and an outspoken NATO critic, to draft his speech before the military alliance in Brussels next week, people familiar with the plans tell BuzzFeed News.
The prospect of a speech penned by the 31-year-old anti-globalist adds a new layer of anxiety for NATO allies uncertain about which version of Donald Trump will show up in Belgium's capital: The one that believes NATO is "no longer obsolete" or the one that thinks the 28-member military alliance is a relic of the past.
"We're just hoping the remarks don't turn out to be 'America First' on steroids," a European official whose country will attend the gathering told BuzzFeed News. "But who knows with Miller."
Read more here. —John Hudson
Wheels up! Trump is off and away
President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump took off on Air Force One in Maryland on Friday afternoon on their first official foreign trip.
The pair, along with Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, arrived by the Marine One helicopter at Joint Base Andrews at approximately 2:12 p.m.
Earlier, Vice President Mike Pence saw the First Family off from the White House.
Also spotted by reporters on board Air Force One were chief of staff Reince Priebus and economic adviser Gary Cohn.
The president is now headed to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
The stay-at-home POTUS: here's why it took Trump so long to take a foreign trip
Trump is the first president since Jimmy Carter not to head abroad during the first 100 days of his administration.
Instead, he has spent much of his time as leader visiting Trump-branded properties in Florida and New Jersey.
His decision not to travel abroad reflects a combination of an election that focused on a return to "America First," and on the homebody ways of a 70-year-old who spends a lot of time golfing at clubs he owns.
But it also marks a new era in American relations with its allies and enemies alike, and the emergence of a world with a smaller American presence, or at least one where if you want to meet the president of the United States, you're coming to him — not the other way around.
Read this report from April about Trump's homebody tendencies. —Adrian Carrasquillo
Stakes high, bar low for Trump's first foreign trip
For the first time since he was elected, Donald Trump is taking his show on the road, with a trip abroad that has many observers watching nervously through their fingers — especially with visits to Israel, Saudi Arabia, and the Vatican, which host major holy sites of all three Abrahamic faiths.
Trump's visit comes at a time when the Middle East is on a knife's edge, with sectarian, ethnic, and ideological ground wars crisscrossing the region, and US, Russian, and other air forces launching airstrikes in attempts to tip the balance in their favor. Even the deftest, most well-informed of statesmen would be challenged to promote the US's interests and values without piercing the obscure layers of decorum that shroud public life in the Middle East.
Enter President Trump, with his penchant for unscripted moments and offensive gestures.
"There is so much subject matter that he could trip up on," said a Dubai-based analyst for a risk-management firm, who asked that his name not be published because his firm operates in the region. "There's so much room for it to go wrong, and that seems to be amplified with this president. The potential for Trump to say something inappropriate is really high, and this is a part of the world where personal slights and loss of face are a big deal."
Read more about how foreign diplomats are preparing themselves here. —Borzou Daragahi