Trump and Rex Tillerson had starkly different responses to Saudi Arabia's corruption crackdown

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Rex Tillerson Adel Ahmed Al Jubeir AP Photo/Alex Brandon, Pool Secretary of State Rex Tillerson speaks during a press availability with Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Ahmed Al-Jubeir, Sunday, Oct. 22, 2017, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

  • President Donald Trump appeared to endorse major changes in Saudi Arabia's government in a series of tweets on Monday evening.
  • Rex Tillerson, Trump's secretary of state, responded to the story in a more critical way than the president.


President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had very different responses to Saudi Arabia's landmark anti-corruption crackdown from last weekend.

The anti-corruption purge initially led to the arrest of 11 Saudi princes and dozens of government ministers. Saudi Arabia announced this week that 208 people have been called in for questioning since Saturday evening.

The arrests were widely seen as a move by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to consolidate power.

Trump appeared to endorse major changes in Saudi Arabia's government in a series of tweets on Monday evening.

"I have great confidence in King Salman and the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, they know exactly what they are doing," Trump tweeted while on a big foreign trip to Asia. "Some of those they are harshly treating have been 'milking' their country for years!"

On Friday, Tillerson, Trump's top diplomat, responded to the story in a more critical way than the president.

Tillerson was asked by a reporter if the arrests in Saudi Arabia were "overreach" and if he was concerned there's a "power grab happening under the guise of anti corruption."

In response, Tillerson said, "My own view is that it does, it raises a few concerns until we see more clearly how these particular individuals are dealt with."

The secretary of state said he spoke with Saudi Foreign Minister Adel bin Ahmed al-Jubeir earlier this week.

"How they choose to deal with it at this point is still a bit unclear," Tillerson said. "But I wouldn't want to read more than what we know at this point and what the foreign minister shared with me."

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