82°F
weather icon Clear

Trump returns from first overseas trip, declares success

TAORMINA, Sicily — As he dashed through the Middle East and Europe, Donald Trump looked like a conventional American leader abroad. He solemnly laid a wreath at a Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem, had an audience with the pope at the Vatican and stood center stage with Western allies at the annual summits that dominate the diplomatic calendar.

But when Trump spoke, he sounded like anything but a typical U.S. president.

On his first overseas tour, the new president made no attempt to publicly promote democracy and human rights in Saudi Arabia, instead declaring that he wasn’t there to lecture. In Israel and the West Bank, he pointedly did not back America’s long-standing support for a two-state solution to the intractable peace process. And in the heart of Europe, Trump berated NATO allies over their financial commitments and would not explicitly endorse the “one for all, all for one” defense doctrine that has been the cornerstone of trans-Atlantic security for decades.

To the White House, Trump’s first trip abroad was an embodiment of the promises he made as a candidate to put America’s interests first and break through the guardrails that have long defined U.S. foreign policy. Trump advisers repeatedly described the trip as historic and groundbreaking, including one senior official who brashly said without evidence that Trump had “united the entire Muslim world.”

Addressing U.S. troops Saturday at a Sicilian air base moments before departing for Washington, Trump himself declared: “I think we hit a home run.”

Trump boarded Air Force One without having held a single news conference on the trip — a break in presidential precedent that allowed him to avoid facing tough questions about his foreign policy or the raging controversies involving the investigations into his campaign’s possible ties to Russia. Instead, the White House hoped to let the images of Trump in statesman-like settings tell the story of his first trip abroad, and perhaps ease questions about his preparedness for the delicate world of international diplomacy.

Yet those questions are sure to persist, particularly given Trump’s remarkable lashing of NATO allies in Brussels. Standing alongside his counterparts, the president effectively accused countries who do not meet NATO’s goal of spending 2 percent of their gross domestic product of sponging off American taxpayers. He left some allies, already nervous about Russia’s saber-rattling and Trump’s public affection for Russian President Vladimir Putin, further flummoxed when he ended his remarks without making an explicit statement of support for Article 5, the common defense clause that underpins the 68-year-old military alliance.

“The mood of Article 5, the idea that we are all in this together, is not the mood he conveyed,” said Jon Alterman, a senior vice president at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. “The mood he conveyed is you guys are a bunch of freeloaders.”

Some European leaders believe Trump can still be coaxed away from his controversial campaign positions. At the Group of 7 summit in the coastal town of Taormina, leaders launched an aggressive, behind-the-scenes campaign to get him to stay in the Paris climate accord.

While Trump emerged from the summit without a final decision on the Paris pact, he declared in a tweet Saturday that he will make a final decision next week.

Trump’s return home Saturday night also shifts attention back to the storm clouds of scandal hovering over the White House. In a briefing with reporters Saturday, White House officials shifted uncomfortably and refused to comment when asked about reports that Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, tried to set up secret communications with Russia after the election.

Trump’s nine-day, five-stop international tour resulted in few tangible policy achievements. The U.S. inked a $110 billion arms sale to Saudi Arabia and unveiled numerous business commitments in the region, though the White House never provided specific details about the scope of the agreements. At NATO, the White House touted the alliance’s commitment to boosting defense spending, though the resolution was essentially a continuation of a pact agreed to two years earlier.

Still, the trip offered the clearest picture to date of how Trump plans to put his imprint on America’s relationship with the world.

From the start, he set a new direction. Instead of following presidential tradition by making his international debut in a neighboring democracy like Canada or Mexico, Trump flew to Saudi Arabia, the repressive desert kingdom.

He appeared particularly comfortable in the setting. In Riyadh, he received a lavish, gold-plated welcome: His image was projected across the facade of the luxury hotel where he stayed, horses flanked his motorcade as it moved to one of the king’s desert palaces and an extravagant celebration was held in his honor, complete with a traditional Saudi sword dance.

Trump betrayed no awkwardness at relishing the warm embrace of one of the world’s most oppressive governments. Instead, he reciprocated with a pledge to not publicly chastise the ruling royal family for its crackdown on political dissent.

“We are not here to lecture — we are not here to tell other people how to live, what to do, who to be, or how to worship,” Trump said.

Trump was lavishly feted in Israel as well, embraced by a prime minister who despised his predecessor and was eager to flatter the new president. Trump received multiple standing ovations — one of his favorite measures of success — during a speech on U.S. relations with Israel. The photo of his solemn visit to the Western Wall was splashed across the front pages of Israel’s newspapers.

Like many of his predecessors, Trump made a personal appeal for peace between Israelis and Palestinians. But he never uttered the words “two-state solution,” the longtime U.S. policy plan that would create a separate homeland for Palestinians. He also made no mention of new Jewish settlements in the West Bank, a major point of contention for the Palestinians.

The smaller moments of the president’s trip were endlessly dissected as well, from first lady Melania Trump’s apparent reluctance to hold her husband’s hand on occasion to his shoving aside of Montenegro’s prime minister to get to the front of a pack of leaders at a NATO photo opportunity. At the G-7, it was Trump’s interactions with other leaders that commanded attention.

The six other heads of state took a short walk from one event to the next, chatting convivially as they strolled through the narrow Sicilian streets. Trump hung back, deciding against joining his peers.

Instead, he got in a golf cart and the American president’s mini-motorcade drove the route alone, Trump once more having charted his own course.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Politics Videos
Assemblywoman Daniele Monroe-Moreno hosts BBQ - Video
Assembly Woman Daniele Monroe-Moreno hosts BBQ to bring the community together to hear about the candidates up for election and for people to gather and have fun.
Democrat Virtual Caucus - Video
Elizabeth Warren visits Las Vegas
Senator Elizabeth Warren made a campaign stop at the East Las Vegas Community Center on Tuesday July 2, 2019. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Aaron Ford Speaks About Bill AB431
AB431 is a bill sponsored by Nevada Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson to restore the right to vote for formerly incarcerated individuals. Attorney General Aaron Ford spoke at the AM&E Church in North Las Vegas about the bill, on Monday, July 1, 2019. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
The Right Take: Biden's Racially Questionable Comments
Joe Biden has uttered racially charged statements for years. Now that he’s the frontrunner for the Democrat presidential nomination, he may finally face prolonged scrutiny for them.
Christopher Rufo Discusses Homelessness In The USA - VIDEO
Christopher Rufo discusses homelessness in the United States and how politicians can work to improve conditions for those with drug addictions.
Clark County 2019 Election Results - Video
The 2019 Elections wrap up in Clark County including an upset in the Boulder City Mayor race.
Olivia Diaz talks about her win in Ward 3 - VIDEO
Las Vegas City Councilwoman-elect Olivia Diaz talks about her election win in Ward 3 and what lies ahead for her.
Greene discusses Read by 3 and Opportunity Scholarships - VIDEO
The Nevada Legislative Session is over and the results are mixed for Nevada students, according to Tom Greene, Senior regional legislative director, Excel in Ed in Action.
Bernie Sanders visits Las Vegas
Sen. Bernie Sanders made a stop at Roy W. Martin middle school on Thursday, during his campaign trail.
Kamala Harris campaigns in Las Vegas
Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris castigated President Donald Trump’s merit-based immigration plan, saying it was “short-sighted” and overlooked the cultural significance of family, during a campaign stop in Las Vegas. “We cannot allow people to start parsing and pointing fingers and creating hierarchies among immigrants,” Harris told Asian Pacific Islander leaders at a Chinatown restaurant, one of two appearances she made Thursday.
The Right Take New Education Funding Plan - VIDEO
On Monday, Senate Education Committee chair Mo Denis, D-Las Vegas, released a new education funding formula. For years, many Democrat politicians have criticized the current education funding formula, called the Nevada Plan. They claim it’s old and outdated. Their biggest beef is that it doesn’t allocate more money for students who are English Language Learners or live in poverty. The theory is that it’s harder to educate those students and so they need additional services, which costs additional money.
Kamala Harris campaigns in Nevada
California Senator Kamala Harris meets with One APIA Nevada, a nonprofit organization that advocates for policies empowering Asian Pacific Islander Nevadans. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Ben Carson talks housing (Audio only)
Ben Carson discusses housing with the Review-Journal editorial board on Thursday. (Audio only)
Ben Carson visits the RJ (Full Audio Only)
Ben Carson discusses housing with the Review-Journal editorial board on Thursday. (Audio only)
Former Vice President Joe Biden campaigns in Nevada
After campaigning at the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades District Council 16 in Henderson, former Vice President Joe Biden spoke with the Review-Journal.
Student serenades Mayor Carolyn Goodman at swearing in
Students from the school she founded, The Meadows School, serenaded Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman during a swearing in ceremony for her third and final term. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Al Gore Speaks At UNLV About Climate Change - Video
Former Vice President of the United States Al Gore talks to an audience at UNLV about the effects of Climate change and how to switch to renewable sources of energy.
Forum on Wages and Working People Highlights - VIDEO
Presidential candidates Elizabeth Warren, Beto O'Rourke, Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar, Julian Castro, and John Hickenlooper speak in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Nevada Politics Today Valerie Weber - VIDEO
Valerie Weber sits down with Victor Joecks to discuss her policies and why she is running for Ward 2 of the Las Vegas City Council.
Cory Booker speaks at UNLV
US Senator Cory Booker speaks at UNLV during a Young Democrats meet and greet on Thursday, April 18, 2019. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
May-Brown describes why some with disabilities need the subminimum wage - VIDEO
Eliminating the subminimum wage will end training and work opportunities for some members of the disabled community. Instead of doing something productive, they would be relegated to adult day care. That’s according to Tracy May-Brown, Opportunity Village’s director of advocacy, board and government relations.
Commission’s decision will delay Red Rock Canyon development
The Clark County Commission Wednesday rejected a developer’s request to approve a preliminary plan for 3,000 homes overlooking Red Rock Canyon before a federal agency grants permission for a roadway leading to the site.
THE LATEST
HHS says abortion restrictions effective immediately

Planned Parenthood and other family-planning providers are suing the Trump administration to overturn the regulations.

Epstein accusers urge judge to keep him in jail until trial

Financier Jeffrey Epstein will remain behind bars for now as a federal judge mulls whether to grant bail on charges he sexually abused underage girls.