President Trump on Monday gave a vote of confidence to the leadership of Saudi Arabia amid a royal family purge that has rocked the Middle East.
“I have great confidence in King Salman and the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, they know exactly what they are doing,” Trump tweeted while traveling in Asia. “Some of those they are harshly treating have been ‘milking’ their country for years!”
I have great confidence in King Salman and the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, they know exactly what they are doing....— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 6, 2017
....Some of those they are harshly treating have been “milking” their country for years!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 6, 2017
The president appeared to lend his endorsement to this weekend’s arrests of 11 members of the Saudi royal family, which authorities there described as a crackdown against corruption.
The mass arrests amounted to the most sweeping purge of the Saudi ruling elite in the country’s modern history. Advisers, ministers and businessmen were also taken into custody on orders from a newly formed anti-corruption committee.
Regional observers see the round-up as one of the most dramatic moves yet by Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman to consolidate power.
The crown prince, 32, has taken over several key government posts over the past two years while pushing aside rivals as he seeks to position himself as the next leader of the oil-rich kingdom.
He also heads the anti-corruption panel.
Among those arrested were Prince Mutaib bin Abdullah, a son of the late King Abdullah and head of the National Guard, and the kingdom’s wealthiest investor, Prince Alwaleed bin Talal.
Mohammad bin Salman has pushed the hidebound kingdom to implement reforms while cozying up to the U.S., a top Saudi ally.
The crown prince, who is a son of King Salman, has also formed a relationship with President Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner.
Kushner made an unannounced visit to Saudi Arabia last month, where U.S. officials said he intended to discuss Middle East peace.
Saudi Arabia was the site of Trump's first trip abroad as president, a visit Mohammad bin Salman was said to have helped arrange.
Trump also has ties to bin Talal, who helped bail him out of financial trouble in the 1990s. The investor was part of a group that purchased New York's Plaza Hotel from Trump as well as the real-estate mogul's yacht.
Their relationship took a turn for the worse in 2015, when bin Talal bashed Trump's campaign rhetoric and called on him to drop out of the presidential race.
"Dopey Prince @Alwaleed_Talal wants to control our U.S. politicians with daddy’s money," Trump responded on Twitter. "Can’t do it when I get elected. #Trump2016"