Trump opts out of overseas trip, hunkering down in DC

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Gage Skidmore / Flickr Donald Trump...
Gage Skidmore / Flickr

Until Monday morning, Donald Trump was slated to spend the next week in Peru for the Summit of the Americas. There was some potential for drama — would Trump square off with Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto? Would he come face to beard with 86-year-old Raúl Castro? Would he spend his time on the sidelines trying to salvage his Panamanian hotel?

But most of those in the White House were less concerned by what Trump might do in Peru than they were of making sure he wasn’t doing in DC. In particular, they were looking forward to seeing Trump away from any non-Coke-related buttons when James Comey’s book comes out.

Senior aides are hoping Trump’s trip to South America and subsequent summit with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at Mar-a-Lago will provide a distraction, as well as an opportunity for the president to appear above the fray.

It’s time for those in the West Wing to scramble up a Plan B. Because Trump isn’t going anywhere.

President Trump has canceled a planned trip to the Summit of the Americas in Peru, the White House announced Tuesday, citing a need to remain in the United States to monitor the U.S. response to a suspected chemical attack in Syria.

The timing of the announcement strongly suggests that it’s not events in Syria that have Trump too antsy to go places. It’s that other “attack.” Trump didn’t cancel his plans after Bashar al Assad deployed his latest chemical attack over the weekend, or after Trump declared that the United States would respond to that attack. It came after FBI agents raided the home and offices of Trump’s personal attorney. Now Trump is showing a reluctance to leave the White House.

“The President will remain in the United States to oversee the American response to Syria and to monitor developments around the world,” Sanders said.

Trump’s advisers had claimed that the Syrian incident would not interfere with his travels. Because multi-tasking.

But no.

What Trump will do in response to the Syrian attack has not been made clear. A year ago, he responded to a similar chemical weapon attack by launching a flight of Tomahawk missiles into a Syrian air field. It may have been cathartic, but since Trump warned the Russians in advance of the incoming missiles, and the Russians in turn warned the Syrians, the $80 million display caused little real damage. Assad’s forces were back to flying planes from the same base within 24 hours, attacking rebels in the very same areas.

Taking more relevant action in Syria would require exactly the sort of coalition building and long term planning that Trump has sneered at for years. Or Trump could push US forces into direct action—which would be risky for the troops and bewildering in its long-term effect.

In any case, with both Syria and Mueller on his plate, Trump is staying behind the Resolute Desk. Or at least, under the Resolute Blanket.

But there is some travel Trump likes. No one has said anything about canceling his golf outing to Mar-a-lago.

Vice President Pence will travel to the gathering instead, according to a statement by White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

Summit leaders should plan accordingly.

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