President Donald Trump on Monday evening appeared to support an ongoing purge of officials in Saudi Arabia, saying on Twitter the country’s leaders knew “exactly what they are doing” and suggesting that those arrested had deserved their punishments.
Saudi Arabia has arrested dozens of the country’s richest and most powerful men over the past three days, including 11 princes, four ministers and more than a dozen former ministers. The shocking actions were ordered directly by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in what has been called a consolidation of power by the favorite son of Saudi King Salman and the heir to the throne.
Trump, in the midst of his 12-day trip to Asia, tweeted that he had “great confidence in King Salman and the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia” and suggested that those ensnared in the spate of arrests had “been ‘milking’ their country for years.”
The arrests, conducted without any formal charges or legal processes according to The New York Times, were ordered during a supposed crackdown on corruption. Those detained include billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, one of the world’s richest men and a prominent investor who owns or has owned major stakes in Apple, Twitter and Citigroup. Prince Miteb bin Abdullah was also arrested and removed as minister in charge of the Saudi national guard, the last branch of the country’s armed forces not yet under control of the crown prince.
“It is the coup de grâce of the old system,” Chas W. Freeman, a former United States ambassador, told the Times. “Gone. All power has now been concentrated in the hands of Mohammed bin Salman.”
As HuffPost’s Akbar Shahid Ahmed notes, Trump’s lawyer in charge of the ongoing Russia probe, Ty Cobb, previously represented Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, which could cause some awkwardness between the White House and the Saudi government in light of the recent arrests.
Trump himself has close ties to the country and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Last month, the president’s son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner conducted a secret visit to the kingdom and reportedly spent time with the crown prince, according to The Washington Post and Politico. The president has also been urging King Salman to list the state-run oil company, Saudi Aramco, on the New York Stock Exchange.
“Important to the United States!” he tweeted last week.