Trump Spoke Recently With Saudi Leader


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Former President Donald J. Trump spoke recently with Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler, Prince Mohammed bin Salman, their first publicly disclosed conversation since Mr. Trump left office in January 2021, according to two people briefed on the discussion who were not authorized to speak publicly about it.

It was unclear what the two men discussed and whether it was their only conversation since Mr. Trump’s departure from the White House. Neither representatives for Mr. Trump nor an official of the Saudi government responded to requests for comment.

But news of their discussion comes at a time when the Biden administration is engaged in delicate negotiations with the Saudis aimed at establishing a lasting peace in the Middle East, building on diplomatic ties between Israel and a number of Arab states forged through the work of the Trump administration.

If President Biden manages to clinch a trilateral megadeal — which would probably include a Saudi-Israeli peace agreement, an Israeli commitment to a two-state solution, a U.S.-Saudi defense treaty and U.S.-Saudi understandings on a civilian nuclear program in Saudi Arabia — he will need support from two-thirds of senators to ratify the U.S.-Saudi treaty. Mr. Trump, as the presumptive Republican nominee in firm command of his party, could potentially either block any deal or greenlight it for congressional Republicans.

Mr. Trump has other reasons to maintain warm relations with Prince Mohammed. The former president and Jared Kushner, his son-in-law and former senior White House adviser, established close ties with the crown prince while in office and have capitalized on that good will in their private businesses since leaving government.

Saudi Arabia was the first stop on Mr. Trump’s first foreign trip as president — a sign of the value Mr. Trump placed on the relationship. Mr. Trump pursued major deals with the Saudis, including arms sales, and he defended Prince Mohammed at his moment of greatest international pressure, after the C.I.A. concluded that the crown prince had ordered the killing of the dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018.

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