Trump will govern without Congress

President Donald Trump speaks about border security in the Oval Office of the White House, Friday, March 15, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

President Donald Trump’s first congressional veto was more than a milestone: It signals a new era of ever more fraught relations between the two ends of Pennsylvania Avenue.

Trump’s legislative agenda was stymied even before his party lost unified control of Washington at the start of the year and he has grown increasingly frustrated by his dealings with Congress, believing little of substance will get done by the end of his first term and feeling just as pessimistic about the second, according to White House aides, campaign staffers and outside allies.

Republicans in Congress, for their part, are demonstrating new willingness to part ways with the president. On the Senate vote Thursday rejecting the president’s national emergency declaration to get border wall funding, 12 senators defected and joined Democrats in voting against Trump.

The GOP-led Senate’s 59-41 vote against Trump’s declaration was just the latest blow as tensions flare on multiple fronts.

Trump tweeted one word after the vote: “VETO!” And he eagerly flexed that muscle on Friday for the first time, hoping to demonstrate resolve on fulfilling his signature 2016 campaign pledge.

Leading up to Thursday’s dramatic vote of rebuke, Republican senators had repeatedly agitated for compromise deals that would give them political cover to support Trump despite their concerns that he was improperly circumventing Congress. But the president was never convinced that any of the proposals ensured the resolution would be defeated, said a White House official who demanded anonymity to discuss internal thinking.

A last-ditch trip to the White House by a group of senators Wednesday night only irritated Trump, who felt they were offering little in the way of new solutions.

As the vote neared, Trump repeatedly made clear that it was about party fealty and border security and suggested that voting against him could be perilous.

“It’s going to be a great election issue,” he predicted.

Looking past the veto, Trump’s plans for future collaboration with Congress appear limited. With the exception of pushing for approval of Trump’s trade deal with Mexico and Canada, the president and his allies see little benefit for Trump in investing more political capital on Capitol Hill. Trump ran against Washington in 2016, and they fully expect him to do so again.

Instead, the president — who once declared that “I alone can fix it” before getting hamstrung by the morass in Washington — is exploring opportunities to pursue executive action to work around lawmakers as he did with his emergency declaration on the border wall. He is directing aides to find other areas where he can act — or at least be perceived as acting — without Congress, including infrastructure and reducing drug prices.

Trump made his intentions clear recently as he assessed that Democrats would rather investigate him than cooperate on policy, declaring: “Basically, they’ve started the campaign. So the campaign begins.”

His dealings with Congress were inconsistent even when Republicans controlled both chambers, and he has made few overtures to Democrats since they won control of the House.

Trump initially predicted he could work across the aisle, but that sentiment cooled after the bitter government shutdown fight and in the face of mounting investigations. His frustrations underscore the difficulty the Washington neophyte and former business executive has had with the laborious process of lawmaking, and the challenges yet to come.

The White House argues there are still opportunities for collaboration, listing the ratification of Trump’s renegotiated North American free trade agreement, known as the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, as his top legislative priority for the coming two years. But passage is anything but assured.

Trump’s ire has been directed at both parties for some time, aides said. He was upset with the Republicans’ performance during the recent congressional hearing featuring his former fixer Michael Cohen, telling allies that he was not impressed with their questioning.

Trump’s budget proposal this past week was viewed as a shot at Democrats, with its proposals to increase funding for the border wall and cut to social safety net programs. The plan, which had little in the way of new or bipartisan ideas, was declared dead on arrival by Democratic House leaders.

Further stoking tensions, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi invited NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg to address an upcoming joint meeting of Congress, in what was widely seen as a rebuke of Trump’s criticism of the trans-Atlantic alliance. The invitation was backed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and followed votes earlier this year in which Republicans voiced opposition to Trump’s plans to draw down U.S. troops in Syria and Afghanistan.

Presidential complaints about Congress — and efforts to find a work-around — are nothing new.

Former President Barack Obama in 2014 deployed what became known as his “pen and phone” strategy.

“I’ve got a pen to take executive actions where Congress won’t, and I’ve got a telephone to rally folks around the country on this mission,” he said.

Obama’s strategy yielded years of executive orders and regulatory action — but many proved ephemeral when Trump took office and started deconstructing them.

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Copyright © 2019 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved

Embattled Trump gears up for distractions & more

President Donald Trump departs after a signing ceremony at the White House Tuesday. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)

The White House has beefed up its legal team. Its political team is ready to distract and disparage. And President Donald Trump is venting against Democratic prying.

Trump’s plan for responding to the multiplying congressional probes into his campaign, White House and personal affairs is coming into focus as newly empowered Democrats intensify their efforts. Deploying a mix of legal legwork and political posturing, the administration is trying to minimize its exposure while casting the president as the victim of overzealous partisans.

“It’s a disgrace, it’s a disgrace for our country,” Trump said at the White House on Tuesday as he accused Democrats of “presidential harassment.”

Typically used to setting the national or global agenda, presidents are by definition on their back foot when they come under investigation. And the latest fusillade of requests for information has the Trump White House, already increasingly focused on the twin challenges of dealing with the probes and the 2020 election, in a reactive position.

Trump’s response points to his increasing frustration with Congress and his intention to seize on the investigations as evidence that he is under siege in Washington.

While Trump is far from the first president to bristle at Capitol Hill oversight, his enthusiastic embrace of political victimhood is still novel — and stands to serve as a key part of his re-election argument. Trump has made railing against the so-called witch hunt against him a staple of his rallies and speeches, revving up crowds by mocking his investigators and news coverage of their proceedings.

That attitude was emphasized Tuesday by Trump’s son Eric, who was among the 81 people and organizations that the House Judiciary Committee has contacted seeking documents as part of a probe into possible obstruction of justice, corruption and abuse of power. Calling Congress “incompetent,” Eric Trump told Fox News Radio “we’re going to fight the hell out of it. And we’ll fight where we need and we’ll cooperate where we need, but the desperation shows.”

Aware that the shift to divided government would usher in an onslaught of investigations, the White House began making defensive moves late last year. Seeking to be ready for the Democratic-led House, more than a dozen lawyers were added to the White House Counsel’s Office and a seasoned attorney was added to the communications team to handle questions related to the probes.

After Democrats took the House last November, Trump declared that they had to choose between investigating him and earning White House cooperation on matters of bipartisan concern like health care and infrastructure. Trump assessed publicly Tuesday that Democrats had made their choice, saying, “So the campaign begins.”

His aides had already made that determination, with press secretary Sarah Sanders issuing an acerbic statement late Monday calling the Judiciary Committee probe a “disgraceful and abusive investigation.” Trump’s campaign spokeswoman, Kayleigh McEnany, accused Democrats of stopping “at nothing, including destroying the lives and reputations of many innocent Americans who only have sought to serve their country honorably, but who hold different political views than their own.”

White House officials described their plan for addressing the mounting requests as multi-layered. Lawyers in the counsel’s office plan to be cooperative, but are unlikely to provide Democrats with the vast array of documents they’re looking for. In particular, they intend to be deeply protective of executive power and privilege — a defense used by previous administrations against probing lawmakers with varying degrees of success.

Trump said President Barack Obama “didn’t give one letter” when his administration came under congressional investigation. But Obama spokesman Eric Shultz tweeted that the Obama White House produced hundreds of thousands of documents for various congressional inquiries.

Meanwhile, others in the White House and the president’s orbit are preparing to do what they can to bring the fight to Democrats, preparing dossiers about Obama’s invocation of executive privilege when House Republicans investigated his administration. And all acknowledge there is no chance that Trump will stop commenting and criticizing the investigations.

The officials declined to speak on the record in order to discuss the sensitive planning.

The administration approach was on display this week as White House counsel Pat Cipollone pushed back against a request from the House Oversight and Reform Committee for documents related to security clearances for White House officials. In a letter released by the committee chairman, Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., Cipollone called the request “unprecedented and extraordinarily intrusive” and offered to provide a briefing and documents “describing the security clearance process.” White House officials said the Cummings inquiries were seen by aides as a thinly veiled attempt to gain potentially embarrassing information on the president’s son-in-law, senior adviser Jared Kushner.

Cummings shot back that the White House position defied “plain common-sense” and said he would consult with colleagues on his next move.

The exchange was predictable, with both sides using the exchange of letters for political means, and in anticipation of almost certain judicial proceedings.

Former Obama administration associate counsel Andy Wright, who also worked as a Capitol Hill investigator, said both parties are aware that their correspondence has multiple audiences.

“You have to assume it’s going to play out in the public space,” he said. “But you also want to create that record of reasonableness so that the court will be inclined to rule in your favor if and when it comes to that.”

As the Judiciary Committee’s voluminous requests circulated around Washington on Monday, the president’s outside array of former allies, associates and staffers communicated among themselves about who was named in the requests and whether they faced new legal jeopardy. Still, some expressed some relief that the requests dealt with documents previously turned over to other investigators. Others maintained the wide-ranging request would bolster Trump’s argument that the probe was a vendetta against him.

But the request affirmed the shadow that current and former staffers still live under. Nearly all the current and former administration officials, friends and family listed on the request have hired private attorneys to navigate both the Mueller probe and now the oversight process — among them Hope Hicks, Reince Priebus, Steve Bannon, Kushner and Don McGahn.

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Copyright © 2019 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved

A hot feud between Pelosi, Trump

Internal Revenue Service employees, front row from the left, Brian Lanouette, of Merrimack, N.H., Mary Maldonado, of Dracut, Mass., and Maria Zangari, of Haverhill, Mass., display placards during a rally by federal employees and supporters, Thursday, Jan. 17, 2019, in front of the Statehouse, in Boston, held to call for an end of the partial shutdown of the federal government. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

She imperiled his State of the Union address. He denied her a plane to visit troops abroad.

The shutdown battle between President Donald Trump and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is playing out as a surreal game of constitutional brinkmanship, with both flexing political powers from opposite ends of Pennsylvania Avenue as the negotiations to end the monthlong partial government shutdown remain stalled.

In dramatic fashion, Trump issued a letter to Pelosi on Thursday, just before she and other lawmakers were set to depart on the previously undisclosed trip to Afghanistan and Brussels. Trump belittled the trip as a “public relations event” — even though he had just made a similar warzone stop — and said it would be best if Pelosi remained in Washington to negotiate to reopen the government.

“Obviously, if you would like to make your journey by flying commercial, that would certainly be your prerogative,” wrote Trump, who had been smarting since Pelosi, the day before, called on him to postpone his Jan. 29 State of the Union address due to the shutdown.

Denying military aircraft to a senior lawmaker — let alone the speaker, who is second in line to the White House, traveling to a combat region — is very rare. Lawmakers were caught off guard. A bus to ferry the legislators to their departure idled outside the Capitol on Thursday afternoon.

The political tit-for-tat between Trump and Pelosi laid bare how the government-wide crisis has devolved into an intensely pointed clash between two leaders determined to prevail. It took place as hundreds of thousands of federal workers go without pay and Washington’s routine protocols — a president’s speech to Congress, a lawmaker’s official trip — became collateral damage.

Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill said the speaker planned to travel to Afghanistan and Brussels to thank service members and obtain briefings on national security and intelligence “from those on the front lines.” He noted Trump had traveled to Iraq during the shutdown, which began Dec. 22, and said a Republican-led congressional trip also had taken place.

Trump’s move was the latest example of his extraordinary willingness to tether U.S. government resources to his political needs. He has publicly urged the Justice Department to investigate political opponents and threatened to cut disaster aid to Puerto Rico amid a spat with the island territory’s leaders.

Some Republicans expressed frustration. Sen. Lindsey Graham tweeted, “One sophomoric response does not deserve another.” He called Pelosi’s State of the Union move “very irresponsible and blatantly political” but said Trump’s reaction was “also inappropriate.”

While there were few signs of progress Thursday, Vice President Mike Pence and senior adviser Jared Kushner dashed to the Capitol late in the day for a meeting with Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. And the State Department instructed all U.S. diplomats in Washington and elsewhere to return to work next week with pay, saying it had found money for their salaries at least temporarily.

For security reasons, Pelosi would normally make such a trip on a military aircraft supplied by the Pentagon. According to a defense official, Pelosi did request Defense Department support for overseas travel and it was initially approved. The official wasn’t authorized to speak by name about the matter, so spoke on condition of anonymity.

The official said the president does have the authority to cancel the use of military aircraft.

Rep. Adam Schiff of California slammed Trump for revealing the closely held travel plans.

“I think the president’s decision to disclose a trip the speaker’s making to a war zone was completely and utterly irresponsible in every way,” Schiff said.

Trump’s trip to Iraq after Christmas was not disclosed in advance for security reasons.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Trump wanted Pelosi to stay in Washington before Tuesday, a deadline to prepare the next round of paychecks for federal workers.

“We want to keep her in Washington,” Sanders said. “The president wants her here to negotiate.”

The White House also canceled plans for a presidential delegation to travel to an economic forum in Switzerland next week, citing the shutdown. And they said future congressional trips would be postponed until the shutdown is resolved, though it was not immediately clear if any such travel — which often is not disclosed in advance — was coming up.

Trump was taken by surprise by Pelosi’s move to postpone his address and told one adviser it was the sort of disruptive move he would make himself, according to a Republican who is in frequent contact with the White House and was not authorized to speak publicly about private conversations.

While he maintained a public silence, Trump grew weary of how Pelosi’s move was being received on cable TV and reiterated fears that he was being outmaneuvered in the public eye. Trump was delighted at the idea of canceling Pelosi’s trip, believing the focus on the resources needed would highlight her hypocrisy for cancelling his speech, according to the Republican.

Trump has still not said how he will handle Pelosi’s attempt to have him postpone his State of the Union address until the government is reopened so workers can be paid for providing security for the grand Washington tradition.

Pelosi told reporters earlier Thursday: “Let’s get a date when government is open. Let’s pay the employees. Maybe he thinks it’s OK not to pay people who do work. I don’t.”

Trump declined to address the stalemate over the speech during a visit Thursday to the Pentagon, simply promising that the nation will have “powerful, strong border security.”

Pelosi reiterated she is willing to negotiate money for border security once the government is reopened, but she said Democrats remain opposed to Trump’s long-promised wall.

“I’m not for a wall,” Pelosi said twice, mouthing the statement a third time for effect.

The shutdown, the longest ever, entered its 28th day on Friday. The previous longest was 21 days in 1995-96, under President Bill Clinton.

In a notice to staff, the State Department said it can pay most of its employees beginning Sunday or Monday for their next pay period. They will not be paid for time worked since the shutdown began until the situation is resolved, said the notice.

The new White House travel ban did not extend to the first family.

About two hours after Trump grounded Pelosi and her delegation, an Air Force-modified Boeing 757 took off from Joint Base Andrews outside Washington with the call sign “Executive One Foxtrot,” reserved for the first family when the president is not traveling with them. It landed just before 7 p.m. at Palm Beach International Airport, less than 2 miles (3 kilometers) from the president’s private club.

A White House spokesperson did not answer questions about the flight.
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Trump: A ‘fringe’ member of president’s club

From left, President Donald Trump, first lady Melania Trump, former President Barack Obama, Michelle Obama, former President Bill Clinton, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and former President Jimmy Carter listen as former President George W. Bush speaks during a State Funeral at the National Cathedral, Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2018, in Washington, for former President George H.W. Bush.(AP Photo/Alex Brandon, Pool)

The nation’s most exclusive fraternity — the presidents club — assembled Wednesday to mourn George H.W. Bush, putting on public display its uneasy relationship with the current occupant of the Oval Office. The uncomfortable reunion brought President Donald Trump together in the same pew with past White House residents who have given him decidedly critical reviews.

The late Bush was the de facto chair of the modern incarnation of the president’s club, transcending contentious campaigns and party lines to bring together fractious personalities who share that rarified experience. But the staid group of Oval Office occupants has been disturbed since Donald Trump’s election. And since his swearing-in, Trump has spurned most contact with his predecessors — and they have snubbed him in return.

The Bushes had made it known to the White House months ago that, despite differences in policy and temperament, the late president wanted Trump to attend the national service. The ceremony’s tributes at times stood as an unspoken counterpoint to Trump’s leadership, as historian Jon Meacham eulogized Bush by recounting his life’s credo: “Tell the truth, don’t blame people, be strong, do your best, try hard, forgive, stay the course.” George W. Bush added of his father: “He could tease and needle, but not out of malice.”

Ahead of Wednesday’s state funeral for the late president, former presidents Barack Obama, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter and their spouses chatted easily among themselves from their seats in the front row at Washington’s National Cathedral. The ex-presidents leaned over their wives to chat with one another. Bill Clinton and former first lady Michelle Obama shared a quiet conversation.

But the Trumps’ arrival, minutes ahead of the motorcade carrying Bush’s casket, cast a pall on the conversation. First lady Melania Trump approached first, greeting both Obamas and former President Clinton with a handshake. Hillary Clinton appeared to nod at Mrs. Trump but did not interact with Trump himself and stared straight ahead during the service. Jimmy Carter waved a hand. The president then shook hands with both Obamas before taking his seat.

After that, the small talk along the row largely stopped.

Next followed George W. Bush, who, by contrast, shook hands with the entire row of dignitaries — and appeared to share a moment of humor with Michelle Obama, slipping something into her hand. Bush took his seat across the aisle from the ex-presidents, with the rest of the Bush family.

The Trump-Obama handshake marked the first direct interaction between the current president and his immediate predecessor since Inauguration Day 2017. Trump has not spoken to Democrats Clinton or Obama since that day.

He did speak with the younger Bush during the contentious confirmation process for Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, as the previous Republican president helped lobby for his former aide. Democrat Carter has been briefed by White House officials on North Korea, though it was not clear if he has engaged directly with Trump.

Trump has sought to meet the elder Bush’s passing with grace, a contrast to the rhythms of much of his tumultuous presidency. He came to office after a campaign in which he harshly criticized his Democratic predecessors and co-opted a Republican Party once dominated by the Bush family. Despite the traditional kinship among presidents, Trump’s predecessors have all made their discomfort known in different ways.

“It’s unusual that a cabal of ex-presidents from both parties dislike a sitting president and that’s what you’ve got happening right now,” said Douglas Brinkley, a history professor at Rice University.

By virtue of health, longevity and opportunities for continued influence, ex-presidents are sticking around longer than ever and staying active in the public eye.

Past presidents often built relationships with their predecessors, Brinkley said. “Bill Clinton would reach out to Richard Nixon for advice on Russia,” he said. “Harry Truman leaned heavily on Herbert Hoover. It’s endless.”

To be sure, Brinkley added, those ties vary from president to president and there have been chilly relationships as well, noting, for example, that “FDR would never talk to Herbert Hoover.”

Busy with a mix of personal pursuits, charitable endeavors — and, in some cases, paid speaking gigs — the former leaders don’t mingle very often, making a funeral in their group a big occasion. Bonded by the presidency, they tend to exercise caution in their comments about each other. Still, all the living former presidents have aimed barbs — directly or indirectly — at Trump.

In a speech in September, Obama slammed the “crazy stuff” coming out of the White House without directly naming Trump. Last year, the younger Bush made a speech that confronted many of the themes of Trump’s presidency without mentioning him by name, cautioning that “bigotry seems emboldened” and the nation’s politics “seems more vulnerable to conspiracy theories and outright fabrication.”

Over the summer, Carter told The Washington Post that Trump’s presidency was a “disaster.” And Clinton — stung by Trump’s defeat of wife Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential race — told a weekly newspaper in New York state after her stunning loss that Trump “doesn’t know much.”

Even the late Bush’s feelings about Trump were harsh at times. In Mark K. Updegrove’s book “The Last Republicans,” published last year, the elder Bush called Trump a “blowhard.”

The late Bush said he voted for Clinton in 2016 while George W. Bush said he voted for “none of the above.”

There have been other moments when the ex-presidents offered more sympathetic sentiments for Trump. After Trump’s surprise victory, Obama stood in the Rose Garden at the White House and said he was “rooting” for the next president. Carter told The New York Times in 2017 the media had been harder on Trump than other presidents. Clinton said in June that America should be rooting for Trump to succeed in his North Korea talks.

While he has struggled to set the right tone in past moments of national grief, Trump has gone out of his way to address Bush’s passing with consideration, issuing kind statements and ensuring that Bush family members have whatever they need for the funeral. On Tuesday, first lady Melania Trump welcomed Laura Bush and other family members for a tour of the White House Christmas decorations. And Trump and the first lady visited with members of the Bush family at Blair House.

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Copyright © 2018 Capitol Hill Blue

Copyright © 2018 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved

A relatively quiet foreign trip for Trump

President Donald Trump listens to questions from members of the media during his meeting with Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel at the G20 Summit in Buenos Aires, Argentina. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

If there has been a constant to President Donald Trump’s tumultuous first two years in office, it has been that his foreign trips have tended to be drama-filled affairs — the president barreling through international gatherings like a norm-smashing bull, disrupting alliances and upending long-standing U.S. policies. But at this year’s Group of 20 summit, Trump appeared to settle in among his global peers.

A brisk two days in Argentina saw Trump reach a trade ceasefire with China and sign a three-way trade deal with Mexico and Canada. With little public spectacle, he joined the leaders of the other member nations on the traditional group statement. He buddied up with traditional allies and largely avoided controversial strongmen. Faced with Russia’s spiking aggression in Ukraine, he canceled his sit-down with Vladimir Putin. And when former President George H.W. Bush died, Trump gave respectful remarks and canceled what would likely have been a raucous press conference.

All told, for the often-undisciplined leader, the whirlwind trip was an unusual moment of Zen.

Trump’s election forced the world to reckon with sweeping populist movements and the impact of globalization. In the first two years of his presidency, he has brusquely rejected international engagement for what he views as a single-minded focus on U.S. national interests.

Public and private interactions with world leaders over his 48 hours in Argentina demonstrated Trump does have the capacity for restraint. And other world leaders, for their part, showed grumbling acceptance of Trump’s untraditional stylings.

It’s hardly as though Trump has suddenly abandoned his “America First” world view. But rather than challenge him at every turn, other leaders appear to be adapting to Trump, mindful that multilateral deals are weaker without the United States. Delegation “sherpas” worked through the night to revamp the joint communique so that it would be amenable to Trump, and allies knew to butter Trump up with over-the-top praise.

“From the outset, I would like to congratulate you on your historic victory in the midterm election in the United States,” declared Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the start of their meeting Friday. He made no mention of the big electoral gains that Democrats notched in the U.S. House. Abe has long proved to be the world leader most adept at keeping on Trump’s good side, but even more challenging relationships appeared to find firmer ground. Trump’s meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel was outwardly all smiles, handshakes and praise.

The G-20 joint statement included U.S.-preferred language on reforming the World Trade Organization — something Trump demanded — and made note that the U.S. opposed the Paris climate agreement, which the president has announced plans to exit.

French President Emmanuel Macron called it a victory that the U.S. signed onto the statement at all, given the tensions going into the talks. He said, “With Trump, we reached an agreement. The U.S. accepted a text.”

American allies did express mild frustration with Trump at times. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, at the signing of the revised North American Free Trade Agreement, needled “Donald” over U.S. tariffs on Canadian aluminum and steel.

But Trump, for his part, played the role of gracious victor, proclaiming that he and Trudeau, along with outgoing Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto, were battle-tested friends. The new trade accord was a long-sought win for Trump, who as a candidate had promised to reform NAFTA, and he embraced its arrival as vindication of his abrasive negotiating tactics.

Most notably, Trump largely kept his distance from Putin and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. He made small talk with the two strongmen but toed the line on a Western freeze-out of the pair — the former over Russia’s recent seizure of three Ukrainian naval vessels and their crews, and the latter over the murder two months ago of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

In previous global summits, the shock factor invariably came from Trump. There was his speech lecturing NATO allies over defense spending in spring 2017. The surprise tete-a-tete with Putin at a G-20 dinner in Germany that summer. And the G-7 meeting earlier this year in Canada, where Trump agreed to a group statement on trade, only to withdraw from it on Twitter while flying to Asia, insulting Trudeau in the process.

This time, the viral moment of the weekend came when Putin and the crown prince, the two relative outcasts of the summit, exchanged an enthusiastic handshake.

Trump also showed control when word came during the summit of Bush’s death. While Trump has struggled to strike the right tone during moments of national loss, he sought to meet this one with grace. He followed the scripted playbook for the state funeral he wishes for himself when that day comes, swiftly declared a day of national mourning and ordered American flags to be flown at half-staff for 30 days. He lauded Bush as a man of “sound judgment, common sense and unflappable leadership.”

For Trump, the Bush family has been a longtime punching bag. He dubbed Jeb Bush “low energy” when they faced off during the 2016 Republican presidential primary. He has been highly critical of George W. Bush’s presidency. And he mocked George H.W. Bush’s signature phrase about a “thousand points of light” during his campaign rallies just this year.

Those insults were put aside Saturday as Trump spoke to reporters about his respect for the late president.

“We’ll be spending three days of mourning and three days of celebrating a really great man’s life. So we look forward to doing that, and he certainly deserves it. He really does. He was a very special person,” Trump said.

The president’s decision to cancel the planned news conference in the wake of Bush’s death helped keep him on a disciplined track. Those affairs can easily go off the rails, as did Trump’s news conference after a July summit with Putin in Helsinki, where Trump drew widespread criticism for failing to publicly denounce Russia’s interference in the 2016 U.S. election and appearing to accept Putin’s denials of such activity.

The president arrived back in the United States early Sunday, with a week of mourning for Bush ahead, a government funding fight on the horizon and more to come from the Russia investigation. The question now, as always, is just how long can this moment last?

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Catherine Lucey has covered politics and the White House for the AP since 2012. Zeke Miller has covered the White House and politics in Washington since 2011. Miller reported from Buenos Aires, Argentina.

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Copyright © 2018 Capitol Hill Blue

Copyright © 2018 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved

Trump jets off to Argentina for a quick summit

Donald Trump boards Air Force One. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Marathon days. Red-eye flights. Jam-packed agendas. When President Donald Trump travels abroad, he’s increasingly keeping it quick lately.

Trump departs Thursday for the Group of 20 summit in Argentina , where the homebody commander in chief will spend just 48 hours on the ground yet pack in eight high-level meetings with foreign leaders.

International summits are taxing events for any leader, but Trump has made his visit even more so by design, as the travel-averse president looks to minimize his time abroad.

The schedule this week is so tight that a scheduled one-on-one meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will morph into a “trilateral” when Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi joins them midway.

Known for relishing routine and preferring his own bed, Trump has largely eschewed marathon trips during the second year of his presidency. That’s after some more ambitious world tours during his first year. The shift reveals not just a personal preference for where he rests his head, but also underscores the increasing isolation of the U.S. under Trump’s “America First” leadership.

Trump earlier this month canceled a planned stop in Colombia, citing unspecified scheduling concerns, but his public schedule does not reveal any significant conflicts.

It was hardly the first time Trump has sought to minimize his travels. Earlier this year, Trump scrapped a South American trip altogether, citing his need to focus on the crisis in Syria. In June, he left Singapore earlier than expected after a meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. A recent trip to Paris lasted just a weekend.

For a man who’s owned a private jet for decades, Trump has always shown a reluctance to sleep in unfamiliar places. He has stayed overnight at properties he does not own only a handful of times since taking office, and he has on at least one occasion laced into staff over his accommodations.

Three current and former White House officials said Trump has at times expressed frustration about travel overseas, and they have curtailed trips to his liking. The White House did not respond to a request for comment. All spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal matters.

White House aides said Trump prefers to play the role of host rather than guest on the international stage, both out of personal preference and for the symbolism. Trump relishes showing foreign leaders around the White House, delivering tours of the West Wing and Executive Mansion, and holding forth on the history of the place.

He also just enjoys the optics of having global leaders visit his home office — that oval one.

Since taking office, Trump has made eight foreign trips, four in his first year and four so far this year, not including Argentina.

His travels in his first year were more extensive and included two marathon tours — one that took him through the Middle East and Europe and one through much of Asia. He visited 13 countries and the West Bank during his first year, compared with seven countries in his second.

Trump’s travel does not match the early efforts of President Barack Obama, who made 10 trips in his first year. Obama, too, scaled back his foreign travel in his second year, with six trips.

Trump’s backers stress that even with less travel this year, he took on a major diplomatic challenge with his visit to Singapore to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

In 2018, Trump has turned considerable attention inward, embarking on an ambitious midterm campaign tour in an effort to protect Republican seats in Congress.

Taking office on an “America First” platform, Trump has always had an uneasy relationship with the world stage. While his supporters say Trump campaigned on shaking up the world order, he also has faced criticism that he is abandoning the U.S. role as a global leader.

There’s been no shortage of drama on Trump’s foreign trips.

In Paris recently for a weekend commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I, Trump stood apart from allies. He began his visit with a tweet slamming the French president’s call for a European defense force, arrived at events alone and spent much of his trip out of sight in the American ambassador’s residence in central Paris.

Earlier this year, Trump jolted a meeting of the Group of Seven nations in Canada by agreeing to a group statement on trade, then abruptly withdrawing from it while flying to Asia. He complained that he had been blindsided by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s criticism of his tariff threats at a summit-ending news conference. In tweets, Trump insulted Trudeau as “dishonest” and “weak.”

While Trump has had harsh words for allies during his travels, he has often treated adversaries far more warmly, offering kind words to Kim, Russia’s Vladimir Putin and the Saudi crown prince. At a recent campaign rally, Trump said of Kim: “He wrote me beautiful letters and they’re great letters. We fell in love.”

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Lucey reported from Buenos Aires.

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