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Trump has mystery chat with Saudi Arabia’s Mohammed bin Salman

Trump has mystery chat with Saudi Arabia’s Mohammed bin Salman

Donald Trump has recently spoken by phone with Saudi Arabia’s crown prince Mohammed bin Salman, The New York Times reports.

The newspaper states that it is not known precisely what the Republican presidential candidate discussed with the prince – his country’s de facto leader, commonly referred to simply as “MBS” – or whether this was their first exchange since the former president left the White House in January 2021.

The Independent has reached out to Mr Trump’s campaign team for more details about the reported conversation with His Majesty.

During his tenure as president, Mr Trump enjoyed warm relations with Saudi Arabia. The country was the first he visited after taking office in 2017, a trip memorable for mr Trump joining in a ceremonial sword dance and going viral after placing his hands on a mysterious glowing orb at an exhibition centre in the company of King Salman and Egyptian president Abdel Fattah El-Sisi.

He also referred to MBS as “a friend of mine” after meeting him again at a G20 summit in Osaka, Japan, in June 2019, hailing him as “a man who has really done things in the last five years in terms of [the] opening of Saudi Arabia”.

He further praised the prince for doing “a spectacular job” and said they had had meetings on trade, economic development and the military, but refused to be drawn on the brutal murder of American journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, in 2018.

Mr Trump later boasted to veteran journalist Bob Woodward in 2020 that he had shielded the monarch from congressional scrutiny following the outcry over Khashoggi’s killing.

“I saved his ass,” Mr Trump bragged to Mr Woodward. “I was able to get Congress to leave him alone. I was able to get them to stop.”

Abdel Fattah El-Sissi, King Salman and Donald Trump with the infamous orb (Saudi Royal Palace/AFP/Getty)
Abdel Fattah El-Sissi, King Salman and Donald Trump with the infamous orb (Saudi Royal Palace/AFP/Getty)

Since returning to life as a private citizen, both Mr Trump and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, have inked lucrative deals with Saudi investors, with the Trump Organization notably signing a $4bn agreement to allow the use of Trump branding on luxury developments in Oman.

President Joe Biden, by contrast, has maintained a rather less cosy relationship with MBS and Saudi Arabia, refusing to speak to Riyadh at the start of his administration over the Khasshogi murder before posing for an awkward fistbump with the leader in summer 2022 and then a hearty handshake at another G20 gathering in New Delhi, India, last September.

They have since been in contact by phone to discuss the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza.

Donald Trump and Saudi Arabia’s crown prince Mohammed bin Salman shaking hands at the G20 leaders summit in Osaka, Japan, in 2019 (Reuters)
Donald Trump and Saudi Arabia’s crown prince Mohammed bin Salman shaking hands at the G20 leaders summit in Osaka, Japan, in 2019 (Reuters)

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan had been due to travel to Saudi Arabia this week to meet with the crown prince but had to postpone his plans after suffering a cracked rib.

“This was a minor accident of his own,” National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby assured reporters. “It was not caused by anybody. It was not the result of a nefarious act.”

Mr Sullivan was due to sit down with the prince as the US seeks to normalise relations between the Middle Eastern powers.