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President Trump Receives Royal Saudi Welcome; Russia Probe Leaks Overshadow Trump's International Trip; President to Unveil $100B Arms Deal with Saudi Arabia. Aired 7-8a ET
Aired May 20, 2017 - 07:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN ANCHOR: This morning, President Trump is in Saudi Arabia. He's kicking off the first day of an ambitious international trip, but here at home, a world of new problems unfolding for the White House.
[07:00:04] Live pictures by the way.
CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: Live pictures here as the president is greeted there by King Salman and the leaders there in Saudi Arabia.
But there are reports this morning that the president bragged to the Russians about firing the FBI director, Director Comey there, and those issues seemed to be following him to Riyadh. This hour, you see him again receiving this royal welcome. This is at the official arrival ceremony. In about 15 minutes, they will go to a coffee ceremony there.
And a few hours ago, the president stepped off Air Force One to a red carpet military band and a jet flyover as well. That is on your right-hand side. Again, live pictures for you there on left. Saudi King Salman greeted both the president and first lady with a handshake. The president and the Saudi king will be holding bilateral meetings throughout the morning here and we'll have more on that in just a moment.
But just want to give you a sense for what's happening this morning as the president arrives to his very first foreign trip and he chose Saudi Arabia for it.
SAVIDGE: But, first, let's get to CNN's Ryan Nobles, he is in Washington with the very latest now on the flood of leaks involving the president, Russia and the fired FBI director -- Ryan.
RYAN NOBLES, CNN WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Martin, good morning to you. We'll continue to watch the live pictures of President Trump with the Saudi King greeting some members of the military there in Saudi Arabia. But, you know, even though the president is out of town, the cloud surrounding the investigation into Russia's attempt to intervene in the U.S. election remains.
And, you know, the White House wasn't really thrilled with the idea of a special counsel being named but there would -- there was some hope that it would rein in the drip, drip, drip of reports and accusations, but at the last 24 hours are any indication, it seems as though these leaks will continue. First, you have this explosive report from "The New York Times" that says that Trump bragged to the Russian foreign minister and the Russian ambassador about his firing of James Comey, even used some pretty strong language to attack Comey, calling him crazy and a nut job.
And we're also hearing reports from our own sources, Pam Brown hearing from a source very close to James Comey that he believes personally the former FBI director believes personally that the president was attempting to influence his judgment on the Russian investigation but whether or not that rises to the level of obstruction of justice is an open question.
So, you know, the president and the White House to a certain extent were hoping that this trip to Saudi Arabia would change the conversation. He's going to be in a number of other countries as well, show him as the leader of the free world, doing presidential things, but there is so much happening in Washington right now surrounding this Russian investigation, even though Robert Mueller is in place as special counsel, his investigation is just at the front end and so there is a lot that's going to happen over the next couple of months that the White House has to deal with -- Martin.
SAVIDGE: Ryan Nobles, thanks very much for the view from Washington.
Let's get back to the view from Saudi Arabia, where as we pointed out, it is history. Ands CNN senior White House correspondent Jim Acosta is live there in Riyadh.
Jim, what have we been watching and what do we expect further to see?
JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, we've been watching the president welcomed by the Saudi king, King Salman, here in Riyadh. It's been a pretty colorful spectacle, this official welcoming ceremony for President Trump here in Riyadh. You're going to see more of that pomp and circumstance I think over the next 24 hours as the president meets with Saudi officials, meets with other Gulf leaders.
He's preparing for this big speech that he's going to be delivering to the Muslim and Arab world tomorrow. During that speech, he's going to be calling on the Arab and Muslim world to do more in the fight against terrorism. We should point out, even though the president looks pretty fresh, he looks rested in these pictures, we're told by White House press staff Reince Priebus that the president did not get a whole lot of sleep in this flight from Washington over to Riyadh.
So, it will be interesting to watch the president's movements because this is to be grueling precedent (ph) for this president on his first foreign trip. Some interesting color along the way as you probably noted so far, First Lady Melania Trump was not wearing a head scarf when she arrived here in Riyadh, sort of not really in keeping with norms, traditional norms here in Saudi Arabia for women to have their heads covered. Ivanka Trump, the president's daughter, also not wearing a head scarf. So, that's obviously something that's going to be talked about here in this part of the world. But at the same time, you know, this is a president who has really defied conventional wisdom in the past and he'll do it here I assume on this foreign trip. But, Martin, it's going to be interesting to watch how the president conducts himself here on this first foreign trip, because as you heard from Ryan Nobles, he has so many controversies swirling around him in Washington.
[07:30:07] And, of course, there's no escaping those kinds of controversies when you get on the road.
SAVIDGE: All right. CNN's Jim Acosta, thanks very much. Very good to fill in the color for us there and give us a clearer understanding of who is doing what and when.
Joining us now to talk further about this as we continue to watch these images and we will continue to show them to you as we discuss matters that may be domestic as well, Joey Jackson is part of the CNN legal team, analyst and criminal defense attorney, Paris Dennard, CNN political commentator, and Alex Pappas, "Washington Examiner" and breaking news editor.
So, let's start first with President Trump in Saudi Arabia right now. I imagine that he is not only hoping to reset relations with the country but maybe trying to get away from all that is happening politically back home here in the United States.
Do you think I guess do all of you, it's going to work? In other words is he go to be able to use the world stage to distract what what's happening in Washington? Joey first.
JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: You know, I think -- and good morning, Martin. I think that's a question that's largely up to him. Remember, we have a president who takes on his enemies and he's not afraid to do so, who tweets freely, who he speaks his mind freely. And so, I think it's about staying on message.
In the event that the president stays on message, and makes this about international relations for the United States improving the lives here at home by doing the things that he needs to do as the leader of the free world, and I think the narrative could shift to that. But make no mistake about it, Martin, these are very interesting and trying times back at home. And to that extent when you have all of the things that are swirling about an independent investigator about Russia, about Russian meddling, about his statements about Comey being a nut job, et cetera, it fuels the narrative and really has us talking about domestic issues when you see him there in Saudi Arabia.
So, the bottom line is if the president continues to be presidential on the trip and makes it about the trip and what he's doing and how it affects here America at home by improving relations yes, I think the narrative can shift. But otherwise, if he continues to be baited by his enemies and take that bait and tweet about it and get involved in it, then I think we're going to be continuing to talk about the very significant issues we have at home as it relates to his significant legal troubles. SAVIDGE: Let me ask, Paris, do you think that -- well, I should say
this, that sources are telling CNN White House lawyers are researching impeachment. I'm wondering, what kind of evidence is needed for impeachment and how seriously do you take the fact these lawyers are sort of brushing up on what to know?
PARIS DENNARD, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, you know, the White House has denied the claims and they are claims that they, the counsel's office is looking up the terms for impeachment and what that means. We know that in the past, when impeachment trials have happened, they are for things such as obstruction of justice and lying under oath. What we have to keep in mind is what I think Bob Woodward said quite correctly that the media and a lot of reporters are binge drinking on this anti-Trump Kool-Aid and need to stick to reporting.
And what we have to focus on is not the drip drop of allegations, or not breaking news. I think these are things more like breaking gossip and breaking innuendo, but focus on what we know to be true, what we know to be true is that there is no evidence of any collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. I think when you look at things like statements that Dianne Feinstein, the senator from California has said, there's no proof or evidence of that, we should take her at her word. Even Senator Lindsey Graham who's no fan of this president or this presidency has said that.
And another key point to keep in mind -- this is not an investigation about the Trump White House and any collusion with Russia. This is about the campaign and alleged collusion, which is no proof or fact of evidence of that being said and the Russian government. So, what we see now is the president focusing on what he's supposed to do. He is focusing on his international trip.
It is important to remember when President Obama went there, the king did not greet him at the airport. It's totally different scenario here. You see the Saudi Arabian government rolling out the red carpet because they understand that this president has an opportunity to reset relations with Saudi Arabia and to really reset how the American government and the Saudi Arabian and whole Arab region focuses on getting rid of ISIS and Islamic radical Islam. It's very important thing.
SAVIDGE: All right, Paris, let me stop you, because I want to bring in Alex here before we run out of time.
Alex, we know that the president had been highly critical of Muslims during the campaign, and we also know of course what's playing out domestically as far as politics. How does this weigh into the thought process of the Saudis? Do they now look at a president who has just arrived and say, boy, he's already damaged?
ALEX PAPPAS, WASHINGTON EXAMINER, BREAKING NEWS EDITOR: Yes. Well, that's a good question and one that a lot of people be watching when Trump obviously makes this big speech to Muslim leaders in Saudi Arabia tomorrow. I think a lot of conservatives and liberals too will be interesting to see if Trump will actually use the phrase "radical Islamic terrorism", something he made a big deal about not only during the campaign, but before he ran, he would criticize Barack Obama, he would criticize Hillary Clinton for not using that phrase and talking about that terrorism.
You know, Trump does seem to play to his audience. So, that's a sort of thing he would say when he's talking to Republicans or talking to conservatives. Now that he's in Saudi Arabia, will he actually use that sort of phrase? And from drafts that we've now seen, that phrase isn't in there. That doesn't mean he won't say it, but I think immediately, that's a big thing people will be looking for when he gives that speech tomorrow.
SAVIDGE: Yes, that speech has a lot riding on it. You're looking, by the way, at these live pictures coming from Saudi Arabia. This is the coffee ceremony, at least as how it's been described in the time line here. Just another example of, one, the opulence of the Saudi kingdom and, two, the warm welcome that it appears that President Trump is receiving.
Joey Jackson, we say goodbye to you. But, Paris Dennard and Alex Pappas, stick around. We'll have more to discuss.
PAUL: All right.
SAVIDGE: We're going to continue to follow the pictures here and the moment here. We'll let you just sort of listen to the -- what it's like to be in the room and what a large room it is.
PAUL: It's interesting, you see First Lady Melania speaking with one of the leaders there.
SAVIDGE: Jim Acosta, she didn't have her head covered. Saudi Arabia is a very conservative Muslim nation.
SAVIDGE: Although it should be pointed out that Hillary Clinton, when she was there as secretary of state, also did not cover her hair. It's actually on diplomatic purposes or on official visits by the United States, it appears that is not a practice commonly done that the American would show with the head uncovered.
PAUL: Nic Robertson is going to join us here after a quick break. Let's continue to watch here real quickly and then we'll be right back.
[07:16:15] PAUL: We want to show video we have just captured from a couple of moments ago, President Trump on his first foreign visit. He chose Saudi Arabia, that's where he is at this moment. You see here, this just happened a couple minutes ago, as King Salman there of Saudi Arabia placing a medal of sorts over President Trump's head, and we know that Melania, of course, the first lady is accompanying him as is Ivanka his daughter and senior adviser to the president, Jared Kushner, also his son-in-law. You can see the plethora of photographers that are there.
Rex Tillerson, secretary of state, we also saw him in the crowd as well. And here they are leaving to go to a meeting. This was the official coffee ceremony that we saw. What is really going to be watched closely is what happens tomorrow as the president will address 50 Muslim leaders. And according to the national security adviser, General H.R. McMaster, the leaders of the Muslim countries will be hearing a speech and the topic will be the need to confront radical ideology and the president's hope for a peaceful vision of Islam to dominate across the world.
Let's bring in Nic Robertson. He is there in Riyadh.
And, Nic, let's talk about not only what were happening today, but the intention for this speech tomorrow and the significance of it.
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Yes, the intention is to deliver a message, a nuanced message, one of respect but that the leaders listening to President Trump and this is what he'll explain to them, should and need to communicate to their faithful, the people of their countries Muslim, Arab, regional leaders that Islam is a faith of peace and tolerance and that's what he'll be communicating to them and that is what we've been hearing from government spokesmen and heard it from people on the street.
But I have to say, just looking at those pictures of how the room was arranged and where everyone sat, because of that, that is so key in figuring out who is in, who is out, who is powerful, but look at the way they were sitting there having the coffee. You have King Salman, and on his right-hand side, you've got President Trump.
On the king's left-hand side, Melania. Sitting next to Melania, you have the crowned prince, Muhammad bin Nayef, the interior minister, the second most powerful man in the country, if you will. After him on his other side you had Rex Tillerson, followed by the deputy crowned prince, the king's son, Prince Mohammad bin Salman, sort of the main power players in the country.
The king with President Trump, one side, Melania Trump on the other side, and on the other side of President Trump, Ivanka and Jared Kushner sitting there again with other leading Saudi royals, with the others both entourages sitting down the sides of the room, a huge room. The amount of time the king is giving to president Trump here, the amount of time they're spending together, the length of the photo opportunities we're seeing, the detail that we're seeing, the amount of time they're walking around the palaces together we don't normally get this much, the Saudis don't normally provide this much insight and time particularly for a king with a visiting U.S. president.
So, this is very symbolic in the way that it's managed, in the way that we're getting an insight into the importance of the way that the Saudis are treating this. But absolutely as you say, that message on Saturday, and in front of 50 or more regional and Muslim Arab leaders very, very important in the way that it's nuanced.
[07:20:06] We heard from the Malaysian prime minister who's written for a newspaper here in Saudi Arabia, the Malaysian prime minister a key player and a key person will be listening to president Trump tomorrow, he sees this as an opportunity, President Trump's opportunity to take the Western and Arab Muslim relationship to a new level and he said it's very clear that we must communicate to our people that terrorism is not Islam. There is no place for terrorism.
So, certainly, what President Trump is hoping to say and what is expected to say is being amplified and reciprocated by the leaders who will be attending. And, again, this is something that President Trump wants. This is the message he's delivering. We need -- we need to separate out the good from the evil, the terrorism from Islam, and that's what we're expecting to hear. Nuanced version.
PAUL: Nic, you gave us a great sense of what was happening in this coffee ceremony in terms of the seating placements and time that has been given publicly we're able to watch here together.
Talk to us about the intention of that. Why would King Salman want to be so public with all of this? Is it attached to, we cannot forget, the proposed arms deal between the two countries?
ROBERTSON: Absolutely. There's business. There's politics. If we look at the regional politics, the Saudis want President Trump and the United States to strongly back them against Iran. They think they have a kindred spirit in President Trump, certainly judging by what is said on the campaign trail. They want and believe that can he because he's a president that operates outside the box, doesn't always listen to his advisers, that he can perhaps shift the dial a bit on the Israeli/Palestinian piece. That's a rather large hope, if you will.
But the foreign minister described President Trump in that context as courageous, that he might deliver something there. We're certainly going to hear a lot of praise heaped on President Trump but, yes, the business part of it.
Look, the Saudis looked at what President Obama did during the Arab spring and nuclear deal with Iran as upsetting the balance in the region. They felt the United States didn't support it, regional allies here in a way that it used to, that they have to stand on their own. They invested hugely in defense and security. They're now the world's third largest defense and security spender, 21 percent of their budget next year will be spent on weapons and defense.
So, their defense contracts with the United States are bigger than with any other country around the world, and that will be a key part of what we can expect to be a number of business deals that could be signed while President Trump is here. But it doesn't matter which administration, the Saudis have been coming and buying weapons from the United States for a long time. It's a competitive market, and the Saudis themselves, the deputy crowned prince says he wants the Saudi to develop their own weapons industry. And who will they turn for the expertise and help doing that, that will also likely be the United States.
So, there's a lot at stake, not just now, not just today, not just next year, but in the years going forward. That's what President Trump hopes to get a stake in and what is potentially on the table as he meets with the kings and the king's immediate deputies.
SAVIDGE: All right. Nic, hold on if you will for us.
I want to bring in Alex Pappas, who's "The Washington Examiner's" breaking news editor.
And, Alex, you heard Nic sort of break it down there. Let's remember the kind of falling out that the previous administration had, in part it was over the Iran nuclear deal. It will also over the war that Saudi Arabia is waging in Yemen at this time. And where does Trump stand, this administration when it comes to that particular conflict?
PAPPAS: Yes. Well, I think the question of why would the king be so interested in talking to Trump -- obviously, he sees the availability for a reset here with the new administration. And so, it's interesting even by the way to see some of details and things of their going out of the way to try to make Trump comfortable, including having like well done steak with ketchup on the side to make Trump as comfortable as he can so they obviously can try to talk about these issues and push him on the things that they want to change.
This is no easy thing for Trump coming in on a big trip like this and not even just because of the scandals that are back home that he's having to deal with. Any president, any politician that goes overseas -- I mean, there are so many delicate things you have to deal with and just accidentally offending your host could completely trample on any sort of message that you have.
Obviously, the White House has a message that they want. It's going to be I think pretty difficult considering everything in the world that's going on for them to be able to push that.
PAUL: All righty. Hey, Alex, stand by. Stay with us here. Nic will as well.
We'll take a quick break and be back in a moment as you look at live pictures from Saudi Arabia of President Trump's first foreign trip.
[07:29:12] PAUL: So grateful to have your company as always. I'm Christi Paul.
SAVIDGE: And I'm Martin Savidge in for Victor Blackwell.
President Trump's first international trip under way, but, of course, being overshadowed by the probe into his campaign's possible ties to Russia. A "New York Times" report claims the president told two Russian officials inside the Oval Office, including a top Russian spy, Comey was a, quote, nut job, and the, quote, great pressure he felt from the Russia probe had been taken off.
PAUL: Now, this, of course, as the president starts an eight-day trip through the Middle East and Europe, and you see here -- his meeting with the Saudi king just moments ago. The goal here is to reset relations with the Muslim world. SAVIDGE: I want to bring in now, CNN senior White House correspondent
Jim Acosta. He is live in Riyadh. And Anushay Hossain, CNN contributing writer for CNN. And then, Alex Pappas, "Washington examiner" breaking news editor.
[07:30:06] Let me start with you, Jim. You've been watching this ceremony, this is video from moments ago, and just remarkable to see who is in the room, and how formal this is playing out, especially because we get to see it all.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right. Some stunning images coming out of Saudi Arabia of the president, first lady, members of the first family, Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner also in the room and seeing some top level officials in the Trump administration, the Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, the national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and so on. And as you're watching these pictures I think it's remarkable to see and I think a lot of Americans are probably watching their TVs this morning and thinking the same thing.
Wow, there is President Trump on his first foreign trip overseas and he could not be perhaps in a more interesting place meeting in Saudi Arabia, meeting with the Saudi king embarking on a very ambitious eight-day foreign trip. You know, past presidents have gone to Mexico or Canada as part of their first foreign trip. You know, if you talk to foreign policy experts and diplomatic experts they'll say, you know, that is the more cautious conservative approach to take a president and drop him into a diplomatic setting that is perhaps less challenging than going to the Middle East.
But this president if you talked to his top officials, he wants to take this on, and so that's why you're going to see the president deliver with is a very interesting speech to the Muslim world tomorrow, his chief speechwriter Steven Miller has been working on this, worked on it on Air Force One with the president, we're told, during their trip from Washington to Riyadh.
Of course, you know, there's going to be a lot of talk and, so far, that's obviously the undercurrent when you're looking at the pictures, a lot of talk of how this president talked about Muslims generally throughout the course of his campaign and into the early days of this administration. Remember, this is a president who proposed a Muslim travel ban in the U.S. when he was a candidate and then when he came right into office, proposed a travel band from majority Muslim countries which got tied up in court.
But when you took to the foreign policy experts we heard from a number of them as the president was preparing for this trip. The president and the Saudis do have some foreign policy subjects and topics and priorities in mind, first and foremost, providing a check on Iran in this region. The president and the Saudis, the U.S. and the Saudis are just as concerned about Iran's reach into this part of the world, and they want to provide a check on that, so that's a big part of the conversations here.
But no question, this is a huge, huge diplomatic challenge for the president. He's going to be not only talking to the Muslim world but he's going to be traveling to Israel and the Vatican after this, so this could not be a more ambitious trip by any stretch.
CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, Jim, thank you so much.
I want to bring Anushay into the conversation and play some video of a stunning moment, Jim was talking about the publicity of this, and how much we're seeing that you see that chain around, the gold necklace around the President Trump's neck there. Well, Saudi King Salman presented that to the president, it's a gold medal, the color of Abdulaziz al Saud. It's the nation's highest honor.
I want to ask you, Anushay, what do you make of the -- what is the symbolism there? What is -- what is the intention as he gives him that honor, because already what we are seeing, the grandeur of this welcome is so different from what we've seen with past presidents?
ANUSHAY HOSSAIN, CONTRIBUTING WRITER, CNN: Well, I think Donald Trump has always taken a softer stance when it's come to Saudi Arabia. You know, they were left off of his famous Muslim ban list and also his executive order barring Muslim immigrants from the U.S. and, you know, despite Saudi Arabia being one of the greatest exporters of Islamic radical Islam, Donald Trump has always taken a softer stance on them.
And let's not forget, there's $109 billion arms deal also on the table that he has to seal with the Saudis. And, you know, it's really interesting because in many ways, there couldn't be a better time for Donald Trump to be out of Washington and escape the siege-like atmosphere he's facing back at home and be in Saudi Arabia. But at the same time this ambitious trip is full of diplomatic land mines and I really think his first diplomatic blunder has a potential to start off in Saudi, in Riyadh.
[07:35:01] PAUL: So, Anushay, I want to ask but that, can President Trump speak with authority to these 50 Muslim leaders about the religion of Islam and the relations based -- in the wake of everything he has said about Muslims as he was a candidate prior to the presidency.
HOSSAIN: You know, frankly, Christi, I think it's offensive for Donald Trump to be, you know, even attempting to be pontificating on Islam, especially in Saudi Arabia, which is the birth place of Islam and the place of some of Islam's holiest sites. I think it's completely offensive and he should take this opportunity not to preach and lecture to the Muslim world, but frankly apologize and listen and learn.
I mean, let's not forget that this president ran his entire political campaign on anti-Muslim rhetoric, and anti-Muslim sentiment and I really don't think he's the right messenger for a message -- to bring a message of peace and unity to the Middle East.
SAVIDGE: Alex Pappas, let me bring you in this conversation. What do you think of that? Is he the right person or do the Saudis really care so much about what was said during a campaign? Can they write it off and say, hey, that's -- he was saying that just to get elected? ALEX PAPPAS, WASHINGTON EXAMINER, BREAKING NEWS EDITOR: Well, he's
president of the United States. So, obviously, they care of what he has to say about this. You know, whether he'd use the phrase radical Islam in this sort of speech. A lot of people are thinking perhaps he will take a moderate tone because the president does play to his audience.
Jim Acosta makes an interesting point that Steven Miller is one of the guys who is one of his aides helping him write the speech. He's a former aide to Jeff Sessions. He's a true believer.
You know, if he has a really strong hand in this speech, that would be an indication that Trump is not necessarily going to take the most moderate tones and would still speak in ways he did during the campaign.
PAUL: So, I want to take a look at the placement, the seating arrangement that Nic Robertson was talking about. We've got King Salman in the middle of this coffee ceremony, President Trump to his right, the first lady, Melania Trump, to his left.
Anushay, as I understand it, you know, a lot of families do business together in Saudi Arabia. Is that a commonality that Saudi families see with President Trump when we see in the contingent he has taken there? His daughter, Ivanka, is with him. His son-in-law, Jared Kushner, also his senior adviser, is will w him. Is there a commonality that they share that Saudis are focusing on?
HOSSAIN: There is a commonality but I really don't think it's one that you want to highlight. I mean, we're not talking about a great example of democracy when it comes to the kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Let's not forget that women are still fighting for the right to drive, still fighting for the right to vote in Saudi Arabia.
And, you know, you notice that Ivanka Trump is not wearing a head scarf, which is, you know, something that a lot of foreign dignitaries and their spouses don't necessarily have to abide by. But in Saudi Arabia, women are legally required not only to have a male guardian for simple things such as being allowed to travel, such as being allowed to seek medical attention. But they do also have to be covered from head to toe.
So, it's interesting note that neither Melania or Ivanka are have chosen not to wear the head scarf.
SAVIDGE: Alex, just want to know -- we know that the king and the rest of the royal family are now in meetings with the president and those members of his administration on this trip. They're going to be talking about security. That's going to be a major issue. But our two countries may look at security differently. President Trump will probably want to talk about the battle against ISIS and yet, of course, Saudi Arabia is more concerned about Iran.
And could that be a problem that different way of seeing things in the Middle East? PAPPAS: Right. And, obviously, we've got some news out of Iran, too.
Donald Trump as his aides and advisers indicated is interested in talking about terrorism and I think that's -- will be a thing obviously he's going to be talking about tomorrow. If I could say one thing, though, about the message, which is interesting. We've been talking about the message this morning, whether Donald Trump's message will be able to break through considering all these crises here at home that he's dealing with.
Obviously, I'm skeptical that Donald Trump is going to be able to control his message and get out exactly what he wants, but these images are just incredible and I think very compelling considering everything Donald Trump said during the campaign. You know, go back and think to that press conference calling for a shutdown of Muslims. Fast forward to today, it's pretty incredible.
SAVIDGE: Yes, it is. We should point out that, of course, Saudi Arabia is conservative and likes to control what takes place within its own country. That would be true of the president's visit as well. so, it's possible the president may be saved from himself by the way that the Saudis carefully orchestrate and even manipulate to some extent the visuals that you see and the message that comes from within their own kingdom when it comes to this meeting with the president of the United States.
[07:40:00] We're going to continue to follow all of this. We'll take a break and be back after that.
PAUL: Let's take a look at your mortgage rate this week, slightly up. Here's your look.
PAUL: Well, President Trump set to unveil a huge arms deal with Saudi Arabia during his first trip abroad, which he is in the throes of as we speak here. The two sides agreed on a weapons package for tanks fighter jets and warships, more than $100 billion in conjunction with the administration's America first platform. The deal is expected to boost U.S. manufacturing jobs.
Despite possible economic benefits there, it's receiving some criticism, widespread in fact, from both sides of the political aisle.
[07:45:05] All of this happening while the president's business ties in the Middle East continue to complicate his diplomatic outreach.
SAVIDGE: Here to discuss all of this with us is CNN global economic analyst and columnist for "The Financial Times", Rana Foroohar.
Good morning, Rana.
RANA FOROOHAR, CNN GLOBAL ECONOMIC ANALYST: Good morning. How are you?
SAVIDGE: I'm very good. Thanks.
Let's talk about this deal. This is one of those things that you get to -- the administration would like to head it off right away, because it's a win.
FOROOHAR: Yes. SAVIDGE: You're not even on the ground and you're already pushing $100 billion deal here. And that's probably the max. I heard some say it goes up to maybe $300 billion. But my point is, should we really be so overwhelmed with a wonderful deal?
FOROOHAR: Well, let's put this in a little bit of historical context. The U.S. has been doing big business deals with Saudi Arabia for some time now. In fact Donald Trump is really in some ways just taking that relationship back to the status quo.
President Obama had actually been trying to orchestrate a little bit of a pivot away from Saudi Arabia being our main ally in the region along with Israel. You know, he had been trying to warm relationships with Iran. Donald Trump is really just going back to businesses as usual, you know, trying to do as much as he can in arms deals, but also health care, IT, private equity. The largest Saudi state oil company, Saudi Aramco is looking to go public, so there's going to be executives from the banking community, from the New York Stock Exchange going on this trip to try and close those deals on this trip.
And I think for Donald Trump this is really about resetting the idea that he is a pro-business president. There's been a lot of complaints in recent weeks and months from the business community about when are we going to get this pro-business agenda. So, being able to go to Saudi Arabia, close a lot of deals, even if they're just on paper, is a big win for him.
SAVIDGE: And no doubt, there's going to be a touting of jobs created or reinforced as a result, but there are usually deals or in these deals explanation that Saudi Arabia would also be making some of these armaments because they want to get more and more into that business in their own country, right?
FOROOHAR: Absolutely. And it's also important to remember that a lot of times when the president has announced deals and then said, look, how many jobs I created, these are jobs in the pipeline and it's important to remember that U.S. manufacturing, regardless of what deals get signed in Saudi Arabia is not going back to its glory days. You know, a lot of the jobs that will be coming to the U.S. are going to be done by robots, going to be done by software. You know, there's a lot of disruption in manufacturing, so one trip to the Middle East is not going to solve this problem by any means.
SAVIDGE: And then the pushback that we talked about at this deal is the fact that Saudi Arabia is, of course, embroiled in a war in Yemen right next door and there's been criticism as to the lack of concern for civilian casualties. So, that's, you know, part of the problem here is that the U.S. looks like it's arming an ally that is doing harm to civilians. FOROOHAR: Absolutely. And if you remember last year, former
President Obama had actually pulled back on $400 million worth of arms deals to the Saudis because of those concerns about civilian casualties. This also draws the point again that the Saudis and Iran are on very different sides of almost every conflict in the Middle East, the conflict in Yemen, the conflict in Syria. You know, this is going to be very interesting doing more business with Saudi Arabia, this being the president's first trip terms of what that signals to Iran about the U.S. position and its relationship with the U.S. going forward.
SAVIDGE: And can I ask you real quick? You know, we remember President Obama, he made a trip to Egypt when he wanted to send a message to the Muslim world. Of course, Donald Trump goes to Saudi Arabia. What do you think will be the difference in the message?
FOROOHAR: Well, it's interesting, because, you know, Obama was trying to say, look, we support the Arab spring, we support reform in the Middle East. We're not going to get more involved in Middle Eastern affairs but we're supporting this reform.
President Trump is really saying, look, we're supporting the status quo. You know, the Saudi relationship is problematic because Saudi, the Wahhabi strain of Islam in Saudi Arabia has been associated with the rise of terrorist groups, with the sort of ideology behind a number of terrorist groups. So, this is not a clean and easy relationship, and it certainly brings into question, you know, how committed the president is to business, versus fighting radical Islamic terrorism.
SAVIDGE: Right, they're intertwined but in an awkward kind of way.
SAVIDGE: CNN economic analyst and "Financial Times" columnist, Rana Foroohar -- thank you very much.
FOROOHAR: Thank you.
PAUL: So, up next, late night taking aim at President Trump and this first official trip overseas. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHEN COLBERT, COMEDIAN: And I hear, there's a chance when he returns, he'll still be president.
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[07:54:08] SAVIDGE: Mr. Trump on his first overseas trip, and coffee and a medal that is a merit award, the highest honor that comes from Saudi Arabia, at least to visiting dignitaries he that he is being presented. Part of this visit is, of course, to show that Saudi Arabia and the
United States have a very long history with one another, the other is to sort of restart that relationship, because under President Obama, there was some falling out with the Saudi Kingdom over the war in Yemen and over the deal with Iran. But you can see that Saudi Arabia is doing everything it can to make it look very good so far.
PAUL: Uh-hmm. And a lot of people paying close attention to the trip, including late night hosts. Uh-hmm. They haven't been too easy on the president this week. This turns out probably going to be no exception.
SAVIDGE: From packing his bags to the long flight there, the comedian saw plenty of material to mock the president.
[07:55:01] Here we go.
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JIMMY FALLON, COMEDIAN: Flight to Saudi Arabia is actually 14 hours. Yes. But Trump was ready for the long flight. Before getting into his seat, formed his hair in a neck pillow. Sunday, Trump will have lunch with leaders of over 15 Muslim countries and the first hour will be just Trump trying to pronounce their names. King Salami al Scooby Doo.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PAUL: Never fails.
All right. Saudi Arabia, as we said, rolling out the red carpet for the president. They might be having fun with it, but it seems like he got the kind of welcome we have not seen for an American president in quite some time from Saudi Arabia.
SAVIDGE: That's a very big deal.
Ahead, our coverage continues for Trump's first visit abroad as president. The big arms deal, the controversies back home and other countries still to be visited. It's all ahead.