On Monday, the White House public schedule was largely empty — President Donald Trump received his intelligence briefing and had lunch with the vice president but, on Tuesday, the Saudi Arabian vice minister of defense posted a tweet showing Saudi officials with Trump in the Oval Office.
In a tweet (translated via Google), Prince Khalid bin Salman wrote: “Upon directives from HRH the Crown Prince, I had the pleasure of meeting with [Donald Trump] yesterday to deliver a message from the Crown Prince, and review aspects of our bilateral cooperation, including efforts to confront regional and international challenges.”
Upon directives from HRH the Crown Prince, I had the pleasure of meeting with @RealDonaldTrump yesterday to deliver a message from the Crown Prince, and review aspects of our bilateral cooperation, including efforts to confront regional and international challenges. pic.twitter.com/q7uXlgSjx8— Khalid bin Salman خالد بن سلمان (@kbsalsaud) January 7, 2020
But White House reporters were quick to note that the meeting was not on the president’s public schedule and some, like CBS’ Kathryn Watson, speculated as to whether the public would have known about the meeting if the Saudi prince had not tweeted about it.
Something that wasn't on the president's public schedule yesterday. Would we have known about the meeting if the Saudis didn't promote it? https://t.co/CxWcmG9Vca— Kathryn Watson (@kathrynw5) January 7, 2020
Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, was also in the meeting, according to the photos posted by the Saudis. Kushner has been tasked with the administration’s Middle East peace plan.
While Trump’s meeting with the Saudi prince was not on his schedule, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was expected to meet with him. In a tweet, Pompeo wrote that they discussed Trump’s “defensive action to safeguard U.S. personnel abroad.” Pompeo added that “the U.S.-Saudi relationship remains critically important to counter the Iranian regime’s destabilizing behavior & bring about stability in the Middle East.”
Tensions in the Middle East have escalated over the past few weeks as the United States took out a top Iranian military official. Iran promised “harsh revenge” after that attack.
But Trump has had a cozy relationship with Saudi Arabia. After the Saudis allegedly murdered a Washington Post columnist who had been critical of their regime, Trump issued a statement saying that he stands with Saudi Arabia.