On Monday, Donald Trump definitely did not meet with the Saudi Arabian vice minister of defense. He definitely did not talk to him about Iran. He definitely did not send back messages for Mohammed bin Salman. This is clear, because it’s not on any published White House schedule, it’s not listed on Trump’s activities for the day, and there has been no White House read-out of the intention or results of such a meeting. Surely Trump meeting with a representative of the murderous leader of a murderous regime that has already been sent thousands of U.S. troops on the pretense of deterring action by Iran, could not have happened without the White House informing the public about the intention of the meeting, what was discussed, or any decisions made based on that discussion.
Or … it did happen, only the U.S. public has to rely on pictures from the Saudi government to let us know. According to the Saudi vice minister, he was called on by Trump to deliver a message to the journalist-murdering bin Salman, and discuss how the U.S. and Saudi Arabia will cooperate to confront “regional challenges.” Which is a message that will please no one in either Iran or Iraq.
But perhaps the least pleasing thing for anyone in the United States is that a autocratic regime whose idea of human rights includes beheading those who fail to grovel sufficiently, and which has blockaded a neighboring state for years over the issue of forcing news agencies to be less honest, is the only source for information on this meeting.
Which is far from the first time something like this has happened. There was the time that Trump barred U.S. reporters from an event, when the Russian press was welcome. There were the numerous occasions where Trump has had a chat with a foreign leader, with the U.S. public getting the word only when that foreign leader issues a read-out. For example, on December 30, when Trump and Putin talked, but the White House failed to provide so much as a mention of the call until a day after Russia had released their read-out.
It’s unclear which is worse, that Americans are forced to get news of Trump’s actions from reports provided by state-owned media in autocratic regimes, or the fact that the information from those sources may be more truthful than anything put out by this White House.