The following week, oil fell below $55 a barrel and Trump took to Twitter to heap praise on Saudi Arabia and urge the kingdom to keep driving down the cost of crude:
One day earlier, Trump announced he would stand by Saudi Arabia, despite the CIA reportedly concluding that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was likely involved in Khashoggi's death. Trump chalked up his decision in no small part to his desire to keep oil prices low and protect U.S. arms sales to Saudi Arabia.
Trump's Twitter "thank you" to the Saudis was notable for several reasons. First and foremost, it's widely seen as part of a broader effort to dissuade the Saudis from cutting output and boosting prices, even though the OPEC alliance is widely expected to do just that this week.
Second, by thanking the Saudis, Trump did something that he once criticized as a sign of weakness and idiocy. In a March 2012 tweet, Trump said the Saudis "manipulate the price then think we are idiots and will thank them for agreeing to release some more oil. We need a leader who knows how to deal with OPEC."
Lastly, the tweet raises questions about how low is low enough for Trump. The president has not made that clear, but in tweets in 2012 and 2013, he said crude oil is not worth more than $30 a barrel, and while $40 might be acceptable, $25 is ideal.
Analysts already warn that oil prices at $50 a barrel will start to put financial pressure on U.S. drillers, who rely on expensive techniques like hydraulic fracturing to produce oil and gas. It's not clear how this plays into Trump's calculus, or whether the president truly intends to pursue ultra-low prices.
The White House did not respond to a request for clarification on Trump's preferred oil price.
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