WASHINGTON — In the long list of things that few would have anticipated last year, consider this scenario: President Donald Trump starting his first foreign trip in Saudi Arabia, where he expects a strong welcome from Muslim leaders.
Critics at least would not be surprised at the circumstances, Trump skipping town leaving a trail of bad headlines in his wake.
As a candidate in 2016, Trump accused the Saudis of blowing up the World Trade Center and vowed to make them pay their fair share of U.S. military costs to stabilize the region. Trump’s campaign also promised “a shutdown of Muslims coming into the country” — which translated into two travel bans, now held up pending judicial review, applied to individuals from specific Muslim-majority countries, none of them Saudi Arabia.
Nonetheless, Trump expects to get on famously with Saudi King Salman, and make friends meeting representatives from the Gulf Cooperation Council and later Arab Islamic-American leaders.
When the White House first announced the trip, which also will touch down in Israel, Italy and Belgium, Trump’s decision to start his debut tour abroad in Riyadh seemed to counter expectations brilliantly by showcasing a president ready to salute “the custodian of the two holiest sites in Islam.” But following a week of bad press on the heels of Trump’s ill-managed firing of FBI chief James Comey and reports that Trump shared too much information to a Russian delegation, the destination itself seems less important than the fact that Trump will be out of pocket.
“No president has ever visited the homelands and holy sites of the Jewish, Christian and Muslims faiths all on one trip,” National Security Adviser H.R….