President Donald Trump’s latest meeting with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was inevitably going to be controversial.
Trump, Prince Mohammed, and Ivanka Trump were spotted giving each other a warm greeting on the sidelines the G-20 summit in Buenos Aires, and it sent a strong message to the rest of the world: the president of the United States, in prioritizing his dealings with Prince Mohammed, condones the actions of a leader who reportedly ordered the death of a journalist.
This comes just weeks after the CIA released a damning report concluding that the Saudi crown prince ordered the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi in October. The Washington Post reported that the CIA’s assessment could complicate the president’s relationship with a close ally, should he decide to take action. Instead, Trump announced his support of Prince Mohammed just days after the report, effectively ignoring the CIA’s findings.
On Friday, Trump showed no indication of hedging on his decision when he was seen talking to Prince Mohammed. A White House representative told the press that the parties “exchanged pleasantries.” Trump himself told reporters, “We had no discussion. We might, but we had none.”
Needless to say, many people were outraged.
The optics of this are AWFUL:— Andy Ostroy (@AndyOstroy) November 30, 2018
1. What the hell is #Mnuchin laughing about with #MBS?
2. Why is @realDonaldTrump standing there talking to a brutal murderer?
3. What the hell is #Ivanka doing there?
Thugs. Every on of them... #Trump pic.twitter.com/vrspH7BFgd
At the same G-20 meeting, Prince Mohammed was also seen high-fiving and laughing with Russian President Vladimir Putin, which the internet also had a very grim field day over. The Washington Post reports that Trump, having just recently canceled a meeting with Putin at the Kremlin and facing increased pressure from special counsel Robert Muller’s Russia investigation, did not appear to engage with the Russian president.
Per the Washington Post, Saudi Arabia has said that a team of Saudi agents were behind Khashoggi’s death and failed to follow orders to bring him home alive, killing him and dismembering his body instead. However, contrary to the CIA’s report, Saudi prosecutors say Prince Mohammed — who has attempted to brand himself as a forward-looking leader with high-profile moves such as allowing Saudi women to drive and enter sports stadiums — had no knowledge of the operation.