Trump spent the weekend in Mar-a-Lago
He has yet to travel abroad as president
Just as a grim-faced Vice President Mike Pence was alighting from his Blackhawk helicopter a mile from the Korean Demilitarized Zone on Sunday, his boss, President Donald Trump – fresh from Florida – was at home, tweeting.
Ensconced with his family inside the White House after three nights at Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s thoughts were far from the tense Korean Peninsula. Instead, an old familiar grudge was weighing on the President.
“The recent Kansas election (Congress) was a really big media event, until the Republicans won. Now they play the same game with Georgia-BAD!” he wrote, referencing a set of special elections this month and taking another swipe at the press.
Trump, who has not yet traveled abroad as president, insists he’s focused on making deals with foreign leaders in a bid to create a more secure planet. But nearly 100 days into his presidency, Trump is remaining at home while delegating diplomatic travel to his underlings, who this week are spreading across the globe to some of the world’s most problematic regions.
Pence, national security adviser H.R. McMaster and Defense Secretary James Mattis are all traveling overseas this week on key diplomatic missions amid heightened global tensions. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson returned late last week from a closely watched visit to Moscow, where he met with Russian President Vladimir Putin. And Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who acts as his senior adviser, took a trip to Iraq last month so widely scrutinized it was parodied on “Saturday Night Live” this weekend.
Despite the miles his administration is putting on military aircraft, however, Trump himself has yet to travel abroad. Even within the United States, his trips have been limited to quick stops within a few-hours-flight of Washington. He hasn’t slept anywhere aside from his own beds at the White House or Mar-a-Lago since taking office.
The contrasts between Trump and his team are occasionally proving awkward. While Pence was photographed at the observation point on the demarcation line between North and South Korea, gazing into the hermit kingdom, the most recent photos of Trump come from his stay in Florida, including playing a round on his golf course.
Pence’s latest foreign trip – a 10-day slog through South Korea, Japan, Indonesia, and Australia that amounts to 53 hours flying aboard Air Force Two – is his second trip abroad since January. He traveled to Germany and Brussels in March in a carefully monitored bid to reassure continental allies of US commitments to NATO and the European Union. Trump spent the February weekend of Pence’s Europe trip in Florida as well, playing rounds of golf at his nearby club.
McMaster, meanwhile, landed in Afghanistan Sunday for talks with the country’s leaders after the US dropped its largest non-nuclear bomb on an ISIS enclave there last week.
Mattis departs Monday on his fourth trip abroad since becoming Trump’s Pentagon chief. He’ll make stops in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Israel, Qatar and Djibouti – all countries with key US military relationships.
Tillerson, who has stated he’s not seeking to top the million-miler status of his predecessors John Kerry and Hillary Clinton, has nonetheless begun the frequent travel that comes with his post. His stop in Russia last week, which was paired with a stop in Italy for a meeting of foreign ministers, was his fifth overseas trip.
Kushner, who has assumed outsized responsibilities in managing diplomatic relationships for the administration, was invited to visit Iraq by Gen. Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. His wife, Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, will soon make her own foreign debut, appearing with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin for a women’s empowerment event.
The President, however, has not ventured beyond America’s borders. He has told his advisers to plan a lighter schedule of foreign travel than his recent predecessors, according to people familiar with the conversations.
Scheduled to first travel outside the country in May, Trump will lag more than a month-and-a-half behind recent past presidents, who all left for diplomatic trips within the first three months of taking office.
Since President Ronald Reagan, first-term presidents have traveled to a contiguous US neighbor before early April as their international debut: Barack Obama visited Canada on February 19, 2009; George W. Bush traveled to Mexico on February 16, 2001; Bill Clinton went to Canada April 3-4, 1993; George H.W. Bush journeyed to Mexico February 10, 1989; and Reagan stopped in Canada March 10-11, 1981.
Trump has not scheduled a trip north or south of the border, though Prime Minister Justin Trudeau invited him to visit Canada during a phone call shortly after Trump was elected last November.
He has agreed to attend summit meetings of NATO leaders in Brussels, and the Group of 7 in Sicily, at the end of next month. He’s also said he’ll travel to the G20 summit in Germany in July, and he’s accepted invitations to visit the United Kingdom, Japan, and China.
But on those trips, aides expect the President to remain abroad for only the shortest time possible before returning stateside. That directive maps closely to Trump’s travel style as a chief executive, when he would fly his private jet abroad for business meetings but rarely lingered for long.
Trump has told his team that he doesn’t want lengthy trips abroad to distract from his focus on domestic issues in the United States, according to people who have spoken to him about his travel plans.
And he’s cited the negotiating advantage of meeting leaders at the White House – a symbol of American power – instead of on foreign turf as a reason to put off a major foreign tour.
Trump hinted at his lighter-than-usual foreign travel during last year’s campaign. As a candidate, Trump told the UK’s Independent newspaper that he wasn’t planning on traveling abroad in order to focus his attention on US problems.
“I’ve got no time to travel – America needs my attention now,” Trump told the paper. “To be honest with you, this country is in such bad trouble, our infrastructure is crumbling, our bridges, our airports. We are in such trouble that I am going to spend a lot of time here.”