President Donald Trump left Washington D.C. on Friday for his first overseas trip since taking the oath of office. In fact, it’s the first time he is leaving the country at all, since he has yet to personally visit Canada or Mexico since January 20. The trip takes Trump to five countries in eight days and is highlighted by two important meetings of world leaders in Sicily and Brussels.
The trip comes at an important time for Trump, who could use another chance to “reset” his administration after 10 chaotic days in Washington that started when he fired FBI director James Comey. Then there was the report that Trump gave highly classified information to two Russian diplomats during a closed-door May 10 Oval Office meeting. Then, there were reports of a Comey memo that shows Trump allegedly asking Comey to back away from investigating former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.
On top of all this, Trump is interviewing candidates to replace Comey and he’s reportedly considering downsizing Press Secretary Sean Spicer’s role.
Here’s an overview of the schedule:
Saturday, May 20-Sunday, May 21: Saudi Arabia
Monday, May 22-Tuesday, May 23: Israel
Wednesday, May 24: The Vatican and Rome
Thursday, May 25: NATO Summit in Brussels
Friday, May 26: G7 Summit in Sicily
Saturday, May 27: Meeting with U.S. military personal in Italy before heading home.
Here’s what you need to know about Trump’s first overseas meeting.
1. The Trip Starts in Saudi Arabia to Meet King Salman
Trump leaves Joint Base Andrews just after 2:00 p.m. ET today to fly to Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia. There, he will meet with King Salman to attend a royal banquet and hold meetings with the King, the Crown Prince and the Deputy Crown Prince on May 20.
Saudi Arabia will be the first country outside the U.S. visits, even though presidents typically make trips to the U.S.’ neighbors first. A senior administration official told ABC News that, “The reason why we chose the Saudis first is because they are the custodians of the two Holy Mosques.”
“We thought that was very important because obviously people have tried to portray the president in a certain way, but I think that what he wants to do is solve the same problem that a lot of the leaders in the Islamic world want to do,” the official explained to ABC.
Trump will stay in Saudi Arabia for two days. On May 21, he’ll meet with Gulf Cooperation Council leaders. He will then have a lunch with leaders from over 50 Muslim-majority countries.
Sudan’s controversial president, Omar al-Bashir, who was indicted on war crime and genocide charges, won’t be at the summit, the Associated Press reports.
2. Trump Then Visits Jerusalem & Bethlehem
After visiting the home of Islam’s holiest sites, Trump will head to Jerusalem to meet with Isaeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu again. The two last met in February, when they had a joint press conference at the White House.
The trip comes at a tense moment for U.S.-Israeli relations. The New York Times reported that Israel was the source of the classified information Trump reportedly showed Russian diplomats. However, Ron Dermer, the Israeli ambassador to the U.S., told the Times that the incident hasn’t damaged the relationship.
“Israel has full confidence in our intelligence-sharing relationship with the United States and looks forward to deepening that relationship in the years ahead under President Trump,” Dermer said.
Trump will visit Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Center in Jersualem. On May 23, Trump will meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Bethlemen. He will also vist the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the Western Wall.
3. Trump Cancelled a Visit to an Ancient Israeli Site Because He Couldn’t Land His Helicopter
During Trump’s visit to Israel, he was supposed to see the ancient Masada mountain fortress, which is a UNESCO-listed site. He wanted to land his helicopter at the site, but Israel reportedly refused to allow him to and he cancelled the visit, Newsweek notes. Instead, he’ll deliver the speech at the Israel Museum. Israeli officials haven’t commented on the report.
Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton have visited the site and have agreed to use a cable car. However, Trump refused to do so.
Before the visit was cancelled, The Jerusalem Post reported on why Trump couldn’t land his helicopter there. In 1997, an Israeli Air Force helicopter carrying former U.S. General Michael Ryan kicked up dust that damaged the ruins. Since then, landing on Masada has been banned to protect it.
4. Trump’s European Leg Includes Stops at the Vatican, Brussels & Sicily
After visiting the Middle East, Trump will begin the European leg of the trip on May 24 with a visit to the Vatican. He will meet with Pope Francis and then tour St. Peters. Trump and the Pope haven’t always seen eye-to-eye, but the Pope told reporters last week that he hopes to find “open doors” with Trump.
Trump will then meet with Italian President Sergio Mattarella before he heads to Brussels for what’s arguably the most important part of the trip. After meeting with Belgium’s King Philippe and Prime Minister Charles Michel, he will meet leaders of the European Union and French President Emmanuel Macron.
After that, he will meet with NATO leaders and will be joined by Secretary of Defense James Mattis.
The NATO meeting will be fascinating to watch since Trump has been critical of the “obsolete,” as he once called it, organization. There is also a report from Foreign Policy Magazine that NATO speakers were told to keep their speeches between two and four minutes long because they fear Trump’s short attention span. Stephen Miller, a critic of NATO, is also writing Trump’s speech to the group.
After the NATO meeting, he will head back to Italy to visit Sicily, where the G7 summit is being held. The “Group of 7” includes Japan, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, the U.K. and the U.S. Trump will not meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin, since Russia isn’t included in the group.
5. First Lady Melania Trump Will Also Join the President on the Trip
Melania Trump will join her husband for the international trip. According to the White House, she has several of her own events planned and will also meet with the spouses of NATO and G7 leaders. At the end of the trip, she will give a speech to U.S. military personnel and their families in Italy before the President heads back to Washington.
“I am very excited for the upcoming trip,” Trump said in a statement. “This will not just be an opportunity to support my husband as he works on important matters of national security and foreign relations, it will also be my honor to visit and speak with women and children from different countries, with different perspectives.”
There are concerns that if anything goes wrong or awry during the trip, Trump want to start limiting his international trips. The Associated Press reported that two officials are concerned that Trump might give Vice President Mike Pence more trips abroad. It seems strange for a president who has his name on so many buildings overseas isn’t that interesting in leaving the country.