NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/CBS News/AP) — President Trump signed a multi-billion-dollar arms and economic deal with Saudi Arabia as part of the first overseas trip of his presidency.
As CBS News reports, it was a move intended to strengthen the U.S.-Saudi Arabian alliance against ISIS. The agreement, worth $110 billion effective immediately and $350 billion over 10 years, is an effort to equip Saudi Arabia and Persian Gulf partners in the fight against ISIS.
Trumpets announced Trump’s arrival Saturday, and the red carpet was rolled out for the First Couple as they were met by King Salman and other high-ranking Saudi officials.
The lavish welcome continued on the way to the Saudi royal court. American and Saudi flags lined the streets of Riyadh and men on horseback surrounded the president’s motorcade. The pageantry continued inside the royal court, where member of the Trump administration took part in a traditional sword dance. King Salman also presented Trump with a gilded necklace and medal.
But the day’s real business was the signing of the arms deal, which aims to bring American-made ships, planes and bombs to Saudi Arabia. The goal is to bolster the country’s efforts to fight terror in the Middle East and counterbalance rival Iran’s nuclear ambitions, CBS2’s Brian Conybeare reported.
“Tremendous investments into the United States, and our military community is very happy. We want to thank you and Saudi Arabia,” Trump said. “Hundreds of billions of dollars of investments into the United States and jobs, jobs, jobs.”
“This huge arms sales package reduces the burden on the United States to provide the same equipment to our own military forces and will strengthen Saudi security forces for the future, so that Saudi Arabia is more capable of carrying a greater share of the burden,” Secretary of State Rex Tillerson added.
Trump is the only American president to visit a Muslim-majority nation in his first overseas trip. On Sunday, he will deliver a speech to leaders from a dozen Muslim countries about fighting ISIS and Islamic extremists.
Afterwards, he is off to Israel, then the Vatican to meet with the pope, the NATO summit in Belgium and the G7 gathering in Sicily.
The president’s trip comes as several controversies back home continue to engulf his administration.
Fired FBI director James Comey agreed Friday to publicly testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee.
The committee announced Friday night that Comey will appear at an opening hearing on Capitol Hill sometime after Memorial Day.
It will be the first time we hear from Comey in person since President Donald Trump let him go on May 9, igniting a firestorm, CBS2’s Andrea Grymes reported. He’s expected to discuss the FBI’s investigation into Russia’s involvement in the 2016 presidential election, as well as his firing.
The announcement came just hours after the New York Times reported that Trump told Russian diplomats that firing the “nut job” FBI director had relieved “great pressure” on him.
The newspaper cites the White House’s official written account of the Oval Office meeting. It says one official had read quotations to the Times and another had confirmed the broad outlines of the discussion.
Friday’s report quotes Trump calling ousted FBI Director James Comey “crazy” and “a real nut job.” It says the president then told Russia’s foreign minister and ambassador that he “faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.”
Trump met with the Russians on May 10, the day after he fired Comey.
“People are seeing things that they think are wrong, and that most people think is wrong. They’re seeing them unfold in front of them, and they want it out in the public, because there seems to be no way to stop it in private,” New York Times national security correspondent Matthew Rosenberg said following the report.
In a statement, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said in part, “by grandstanding and politicizing the investigation into Russia’s actions, James Comey created unnecessary pressure on our ability to engage and negotiate with Russia.”
He went on to say Comey’s firing would not have ended the Russia investigation, and the bigger story is the leaking of highly classified conversations.
Trump has been narrowing a short list and interviewing candidates to replace FBI Director James Comey who he fired May 9.
The president did not announce his pick for FBI director before leaving Friday on his first foreign trip. Trump said Thursday he was “very close” to naming a replacement and that former Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman was among his top choices.
Trump boarded Air Force One Friday without making any comment about the future leadership of the law enforcement agency.
The president departed Friday afternoon on a four-country, nine-day tour of the Middle East and Europe.
Meanwhile, the Washington Post reported that a senior White House adviser is a significant person of interest in the Russia investigation.
In response to that article, Spicer said the investigation will conclude there was no collusion between the Trump campaign and any foreign entity.
“I do not have any information or knowledge regarding the person of interest that’s been referenced,” Tillerson added Saturday.
All of this news broke while Trump was en route to Saudi Arabia.
CBS2’s Andrea Grymes will be overseas for part of the president’s trip when he visits Israel and Rome. Coverage begins Sunday on CBS2.
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