Trump leaves for Saudi Arabia on Friday afternoon and will make stops next week in Israel, Belgium and Italy. The trip was billed as a chance to visit places sacred to three of the world's major religions while creating face time with Arab, Israeli and European leaders.
But a political uproar in Washington over Trump's firing of former FBI Director James Comey, allegations that he pressed Director Comey to stop investigating former national security adviser Michael Flynn, and the subsequent appointment of a special counsel to look into allegations of Russian meddling in the 2016 election and potential ties with President Trump's campaign threaten to overshadow his trip.
Donald Trump to make first overseas trip as president
“We look forward to getting this whole situation behind us,” the Republican president told a news conference at the White House on Thursday.
The sojourn abroad, his first foreign trip since taking office in January, may or may not help.
Trump is expected to be welcomed warmly by leaders in Riyadh and Jerusalem, but lingering questions over his views on the Iran nuclear deal, commitment to NATO security and skepticism of the Paris climate agreement could generate tension at meetings with European counterparts in Brussels and Sicily.
Mr Trump has faced a political uproar in Washington for firing of former FBI Director James Comey
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“It's almost always true that when a president goes on a big foreign trip, especially one that has some important summits … that that dominates the news and knocks most other stuff out,” said Republican strategist Charlie Black.
“Whether by accident or design, this will help him in terms of Russia news for a while.”