President Donald Trump leaves for his first foreign trip of his presidency Friday, highlighting three of the world’s biggest religions with visits to Saudi Arabia, Israel, and the Vatican City.
“I’ll meet scores of leader, and honor the holiest sites of these three great religions,” Trump said during a speech on Wednesday, previewing his trip to Coast Guard graduates. Despite the political chaos in Washington, White House officials have been working steadily behind the scenes planning the logistics of Trump’s travel to four countries over eight days, despite concerns from skeptics that the trip is too big and too ambitious.
“No president has ever visited the homelands of three of the of the world’s great faiths in the same trip before, faiths which are professed by millions of Americans,” a White House official told Breitbart News, pointing out that the president was “very excited” to make the trip. In Saudi Arabia, Trump will help inaugurate a center committed to fighting extremism online and in public while promoting a moderate vision of Islam. While visiting with over 50 leaders of the Muslim worlds, he will deliver a tough speech, challenging them to tackle radical Islamic terrorism.
“He’ll talk about what unites us in uplifting terms, but he’ll also be very blunt in talking about the need to confront extremism and the fact that many in the Muslim world have not only not done enough, they’ve actively abetted this extremism, even as some of them have talked a good game on the surface but in quiet, continue to fund extremism,” a White House official said, previewing the president’s speech. Trump also plans to seek defense and trade agreements with the Saudi’s, helping them deter Iran and promote jobs and investments in the United States. In Israel, Trump will continue boosting his friendship with Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu, after eight years of the relationship deteriorating under former President Barack Obama.
The president plans to be the first serving U.S. president to visit the Western Wall, one of the holiest sites in the Jewish faith. The White House is aware of reports that an American diplomat refused to allow Netanyahu to join Trump on the visit, but an official cautioned that the reported comments did not reflect the president’s views. Trump will visit the Wall with the Rabbi of the site, something that a White House official described as “completely appropriate” due to the spiritual nature of the site and the visit.
First Lady Melania Trump will be with the president for part of the trip, including visit to Israel and the Vatican, according to WH official In the Vatican, Trump will meet with Pope Francis, recognizing the importance of Catholics around the world.
“We think that there’s a lot of common ground there between the pope and the president and between the Vatican,” a White House official noted. The biggest news surrounding Trump’s visit to the Vatican surrounds the lack of a U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See, a process that remains ongoing. Officials have still not confirmed reports that Trump has selected Callista Gingrich to serve in the position. A White House official cited a “dizzying amount of bureaucratic paperwork” for slowing the process, but promised an update soon.