Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is expected to be greeted at the White House next week as a reformer who's expanded women's rights as he amassed power, but 14 current and former senior U.S. officials tell NBC News he's blocked his mother from seeing his father to protect his position.
The officials believe, based on several years of intelligence, that the prince took the action against his mother over concerns she would oppose his plans to grab power, because it could divide the royal family, by talking to the king. She was placed under house arrest for at least some time without the king's knowledge, officials said.
The Saudi Arabian embassy in Washington denied that Prince Mohammed's mother, Princess Fahda bint Falah Al Hathleen, is under house arrest or separation from her husband. NBC News did not accept offers to meet with the princess because the Saudi government wouldn't allow it to disclose that a meeting took place or use information from the meeting.
The 82-year-old King Salman has told people around him that he misses his third wife, whom he's been told is receiving medical treatment outside the country, according to the officials, who said their interactions with him suggest he isn't consistently lucid.
Prince Mohammed, a key ally of the Trump White House, abruptly took over as crown prince in June, implementing reforms but also arresting more than 200 Saudi officials and businessmen in what the government called a corruption crackdown.