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Trump and Saudis, a disturbing affinity

President Donald Trump shows a chart highlighting arms

President Donald Trump shows a chart highlighting arms sales to Saudi Arabia during a meeting with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in the Oval Office of the White House on March 20, 2018 in Washington.  Credit: AP/Evan Vucci

One hallmark of Donald Trump's presidency has been his cozy relationship, bordering on obsequiousness, with Saudi Arabia. Witness his deeply disturbing reaction to the slaughter of three U.S. sailors Friday by a Saudi national on a naval base in Florida.

After a Saudi Air Force officer here for a training program opened fire on classmates, Trump's response was to assure Americans that Saudi Arabia's King Salman had sent his condolences, felt badly about the killings and would help victims' loved ones. There was no demand for accountability or Saudi investigations of the officer's background  and Saudi vetting procedures, no talk of terrorism, only an assurance that the relationship between the two nations would continue, which surely was the intent of the king's outreach. Trump never mentioned the victims. 

What makes Trump's response so extraordinary is that anti-Muslim rhetoric has long been his stock in trade. As a candidate, he talked about getting tough on Saudi Arabia. Yet, he has literally let the country get away with murder, shrugging off assertions by U.S. intelligence agencies that Saudi agents almost certainly reporting to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman brutally killed Saudi journalist and American resident Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul.

Yes, Saudi Arabia is a buffer to Iran and a big buyer of American weaponry. But Trump's finances also loom as motivation. Saudi officials have spent lavishly at his hotels since his election, and he has boasted of making "hundreds of millions" of dollars in real estate sales to Saudis. Son-in-law Jared Kushner has a close relationship with the crown prince.

None of which justifies the president's lack of empathy for the military he professes to support.  — The editorial board