London, Donald Trump, Mark Mazzetti discussed on The Lawfare Podcast


You know he tells him. I've been a lot of hard negotiations. But i've never needed a bone. Saw very hard on them and they never really give him any information. They never acknowledged anything. And you know the big sort of quote that brings it to the end. Is donald trump. Put out a famous statement. Saying i don't know if you ordered it. Maybe he did and maybe he didn't but it doesn't really matter anyway because saudi arabia so important to us basically as an outline in the middle east and as a purchaser of american weapons that. We don't really need to punish them for this. And you know that. I think for a lot of people just showed the extent that the trump administration would go to protect this relationship into talk. Talk a little bit about your experience reporting on the book so you are also journalists. Was it easy getting people to talk to you. Was it easy to get visas. And how do you feel like the saudis took to your reporting on the country. Well it sort of. It changed over time. I began going to saudi arabia in two thousand thirteen under the previous king king abdullah and then it was. It was difficult to get visas but it wasn't particularly difficult to work. I mean it's always a bit of a close society. It was hard to get visas. I mean i would get seven days single entry visa. I would go for seven days. And then i would leave and then they would get a two week basan and again. It did get better over time. Partly you know win. Nbs came in. It did get better. I think that we will one of the talking points of the nba s era was openness and transparency and for a while that did extend to foreign journalists. They did make it easier. And i was able to get some longer term visas and so that i could kind of come and go and and i think it was the amount of time that i spent there even before. Nbs really had come to power. I mean i got to know a lot of people. I worked on a lot of different subjects. Did certainly i did some stories that they didn't like but i also did many stories that the saudis really did like so that kind of gave me a wide network of contacts that i could come to later on when i really started focusing on him and then i think it sort of the turning point would have been two thousand sixteen two thousand seventeen when we started writing about him. I think a little bit more aggressively than they expected in a we a colleague of my my colleague mark mazzetti and i broke the story of him spending about a half a billion dollars on a yacht. They were not very happy about that. S- you know. And then i think the way that we covered eighty the way that we covered the ritz. They were definitely not happy about that. I think they felt that we were being much too aggressive on him. And we were not giving him enough credit for the things that he was doing inside the country and so you know my access kind of started gradually drying up and then by the time i really got down to working on the book. I was having a hard time getting into the country and had a good network of contacts. Either people that. I could talk to remotely because you know. They knew me entrusted me. That i would protect them if i needed to. And then other people who were abroad in. Oh there's a whole network of people around the region who either have you know who have close links to various parts of the saudi royal family. And so you know. I'd met a number of these people along the way as well so was able to meet people. And you know in lebanon and jordan. Some people in london and was able to sort of go back to those contacts and it became quite clear. I mean by the time. The saudis knew that i was working on a book relationship was pretty bad and they made it pretty clear. They just didn't want anything to do with that. They were going to keep it at arm's length and you know they were not going to facilitate in any way. Yeah and so to end with one of the maybe the biggest takeaway for me from the book was sort of how aggressive mb s is he tells. Is this quote where he tells an adviser that he takes no half measures. How do you go about thinking about what he might do next. Or whether there's any chance of him sort of doing away with that aggressive impulse and evolving into a partner that the country like the united states would be more eager to embrace. Why i think the main thing to remember is that he's still very young. I mean he's now thirty four years old and he could be around for a very long time. I mean it. Was you know when his father passes away. Most people expect that he will then become the king unless something kind of extraordinary happens and if he lives to be as old as his father he'll be empower until sometime in the two thousand sixty s. So you know we're we're still pretty early in what could be a very very long era of mvs in the middle east. And so i'm a bit i. It's something. I thought a lot about in the book. I mean. it's a bit risky to do a book about somebody whose only thirty four years old and who could be around for many more decades. So i tried to focus very much on sort of what we know about him from this. I four to five years and not sort of predict so much where he's going and and what i found in just talking to you know diplomats business people you know other people engage of saudi arabia's. There's just kind of this question that everybody has in recognizing how young is but there's this question of you know is he learning from these incidents incidences learning from his mistakes. You know. does he look at you. Know the murder of hushovd g does he look at the war and he say wow. We really did that wrong. And that really. That really costs us a lot in terms of either our international credibility or in. Oh i wanna do a different next time and you know. Is there a possibility that you know. I think the question is really is what we've.

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