A photographer offers a behind-the-scenes view of the President’s first foreign trip Photographs by Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images
For the first time in his presidency, Donald Trump traveled abroad — a nine-day, five-country tour that saw him meet with a king, a pope and other heads of state from all over the world.
Along for the ride was Mandel Ngan, a photographer with Agence France-Presse. Ngan, a Canadian photographer based in Washington, has been covering the White House since the George W. Bush administration. He also covered Trump during his campaign.
Trump departed Washington as controversies swirled, all centering on the alleged ties between his campaign and Russia. Earlier in the week, it was announced that a special counsel, former FBI Director Robert Mueller, would lead the investigation.
While many former presidents took their first foreign trips to Canada or Mexico, Trump chose to go in a much different direction. He is the first US president to visit the Middle East on his maiden voyage.
Trump landed in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia’s capital, and was lavished with extravagant royal pomp as he was welcomed by Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud.
The two leaders oversaw the signing of a defense deal worth nearly $110 billion. Multiple agreements between American and Saudi companies were also inked.
“That was a tremendous day. Tremendous investments in the United States. Hundreds of billions of dollars of investments into the United States and jobs, jobs, jobs,” Trump said.
On his second day in Saudi Arabia, Trump delivered a speech at a summit that included leaders from 55 Muslim-majority countries. He looked to make it clear that the United States is not at war with Islam.
“This is not a battle between different faiths, different sects or different civilizations,” he said. “This is a battle between barbaric criminals who seek to obliterate human life, and decent people of all religions who seek to protect it. This is a battle between good and evil.”
Trump urged Muslim-majority countries to do more to eradicate terrorist groups that claim the mantle of Islam. “We can only overcome this evil if the forces of good are united and strong and if everyone in this room does their fair share and fulfills their part of the burden,” Trump said. “Muslim-majority countries must take the lead in stamping out radicalization.”
Trump landed in Tel Aviv, Israel, to begin the second leg of his trip.
From Tel Aviv, he traveled to Jerusalem, where he visited the Western Wall and the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. He also met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israeli President Reuven Rivlin.
A day after meeting with Israeli leaders, Trump traveled to the West Bank to visit Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
Trump said he was “truly hopeful” that his administration could broker a peace agreement between Israelis and Palestinians, and he said he believed both sides “are ready to reach for peace.”
Trump visited Israel’s Holocaust memorial, Yad Vashem, and delivered remarks at the Israel Museum before flying out to Rome for the third leg of his tour.
The President met Pope Francis at the Vatican, where the two exchanged gifts and talked for 30 minutes in the Pope’s private study. The Vatican allowed access to only one still photographer from the White House press corps, so Ngan was unable to be there when Trump met the Pope.
Afterward, Trump and the first lady toured the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica before heading back to Rome.
“He is something,” Trump said of the Pope later in the day, during a meeting with Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni. “We had a fantastic meeting. We’re liking Italy very, very much and it was an honor to be with the Pope.”
The day finished with Trump flying to Brussels, Belgium, where he met the country’s king and prime minister.
While in Brussels, Trump met with European Council President Donald Tusk and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.
He also had a working lunch with new French President Emmanuel Macron and met with other world leaders at a NATO summit.
Trump chided NATO member countries directly for not meeting their financial commitments to the alliance and declined to reiterate US commitment to the alliance’s mutual defense pledge.
“Twenty-three of the 28 member nations are still not paying what they should be paying and what they are supposed to be paying for their defense. This is not fair to the people and taxpayers of the United States,” he said.
On the final leg of his trip, Trump visited Italy’s Sicilian coast for a two-day G-7 summit.
The Group of Seven is comprised of the United States, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United Kingdom. Its leaders were expected to discuss global economic issues and problems such as the Syrian civil war and the fight against ISIS.
In the evening, Trump and his wife attended a concert of the La Scala Philharmonic Orchestra.
Trump said he will make a decision next week on whether the United States will withdraw from the landmark Paris climate accord from 2015. A top aide said the President listened carefully to his G-7 counterparts and is “evolving” on the issue.
After wrapping up meetings at the G-7 summit, Trump ended his trip by meeting with US military personnel and their families at an air base in Sicily.