Donald Trump begins his maiden international trip as U.S. president Friday, leaving the White House awash in a slew of controversies that has some politicians invoking comparisons to the Watergate scandal that brought down the presidency of Richard Nixon.
“We look forward to getting this whole situation behind us,” Donald Trump told reporters Thursday.
The controversies include the firing of former Federal Bureau of Investigation Director James Comey amid allegations Trump wanted Comey to stop investigating former national security adviser Michael Flynn.
The president is also facing questions about his ties with Russia during the presidential election and allegations he revealed classified material to Russia’s foreign minister during a meeting in the Oval Office.
The stops include
Stops on the upcoming trip include Saudi Arabia, Israel and the Vatican; places sacred to three of the world’s major religions.
In Saudi Arabia, Trump, who has been outspoken about his mistrust of Muslims and has tried to ban Muslims from entering the U.S., is set to deliver a speech on Islam before a group of Muslim leaders. H.R. McMaster, Trump’s national security adviser, said the president is hopeful for the emergence of a peaceful vision of Islam.
Controversy precedes the U.S. president on his stop in Israel as well, following Trump’s alleged disclosure of Israeli intelligence to Russian officials.
Meeting with Pope Francis
The U.S. president will also go to the Vatican to meet with Pope Francis who has said he will not make any judgments about Trump before meeting him.
Trump will then go to Belgium, where he will meet with NATO members in Brussels before ending his trip in the Sicilian town of Taormina for a G-7 summit.
Sudan President Omar al-Bashir will not attend the Islamic summit with Trump in Saudi Arabia, according to Sudan’s state news agency SUNA. The agency said “personal reasons” were preventing him from attending, but did not list the reasons.
Bashir has for years faced charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court for crimes committed against civilians in Darfur. He has yet to be arrested.