Dec 10, 2018

Argentina and Trump’s funny money

Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

When Argentine President Mauricio Macri hosted Trump at the G20 summit in Buenos Aires last week, Trump said he'd "been friends with Mauricio for a long time, many years."

But as Bloomberg's Tim O'Brien reported, that history wasn't always sunny. Trump met then-teenage Mauricio Macri while wrangling with his father, a top Argentine developer, over a contentious Manhattan real estate partnership.

The Trump-Macri encounter at the G20 reminded some sources of a highly unusual conversation between Macri and then-Secretary of State John Kerry a few months before the 2016 election.

  • Behind the scenes: Macri hosted Kerry and a number of senior U.S. officials at the presidential mansion, the Casa Rosada, in Buenos Aires. It was August of 2016, shortly after Democratic convention, and Hillary Clinton was soaring in the polls. The people there talked about Trump like he was a comical sideshow.

And Macri told a story everyone in the room found hilarious. Here it is, as recalled by one source in the room and confirmed, in broad detail, by another source in the room and a third source briefed on the conversation:

  • When Macri was running for president, he got a phone call out of the blue. "This is Donald Trump," Macri told the people in the room, impersonating the future president and pretending to hold a phone to his head. "I've been watching you."
  • The call amazed Macri, he told listeners. "Trump goes on to say, ‘I remember you fondly and I remember the business deal,'" one participant recalled. "And Macri says, 'Fondly? Fondly, you son of a gun?'"
  • Trump told Macri he would help him. "Yeah, yeah," Macri replied, as if he didn't think much of it at the time.
  • Some days after the call, a big FedEx envelope came in the mail with a check from Trump to Macri's campaign. One source thought the check was for $500; another thought $5,000.
  • Then came the punchline: Macri told the room that when his team went to deposit the check, it bounced.

The response: The White House did not comment. A representative for the Argentine government said, "The Public Communications Secretariat of the Argentine Government denies that this conversation took place."

Postscript: The conversation certainly did take place; it's not conceivable that our three sources could have colluded to make this up.

  • While Trump didn't break U.S. law by sending a check to Macri, it was illegal for the Argentine politician to accept a foreign contribution.
  • Yes, but: Mark Jones, a Latin American scholar at the Baker Institute, told Axios it's not so simple. "Traditionally in Argentina, most campaign donations aren't reported," he said. "The laws have been more or less irrelevant because historically most Argentine donations are done under the table with effectively everyone knowing that people cheat."

Go deeper: World leaders turning Trump's tricks against him

Go deeper

World coronavirus updates

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Axios Visuals

Japan's economy minister outlined plans on Monday to end the nationwide state of emergency as the number of new novel coronavirus cases continues to decline to less than 50 a day, per Bloomberg. Japan has reported 16,550 cases and 820 deaths.

By the numbers: Over 5.4 million people have tested positive for the virus as of Monday, and more than 2.1 million have recovered. The U.S. has reported the most cases in the world (over 1.6 million from 13.7 million tests). The U.K. is reporting over 36,800 deaths from the coronavirus — the most fatalities outside the U.S.

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of midnight ET: 5,401,701 — Total deaths: 345,060 — Total recoveries — 2,149,407Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of midnight ET: 1,643,238 — Total deaths: 97,720 — Total recoveries: 366,736 — Total tested: 14,163,195Map.
  3. World: White House announces travel restrictions on Brazil, coronavirus hotspot in Southern Hemisphere Over 100 coronavirus cases in Germany tied to single day of church services — Boris Johnson backs top aide amid reports that he broke U.K. lockdown while exhibiting symptoms.
  4. Public health: Officials are urging Americans to wear masks headed into Memorial Day weekend Report finds "little evidence" coronavirus under control in most statesHurricanes, wildfires, the flu could strain COVID-19 response
  5. Economy: White House economic adviser Kevin Hassett says it's possible the unemployment rate could still be in double digits by November's election — Public employees brace for layoffs.
  6. Federal government: Trump attacks a Columbia University study that suggests earlier lockdown could have saved 36,000 American lives.
  7. What should I do? Hydroxychloroquine questions answeredTraveling, asthma, dishes, disinfectants and being contagiousMasks, lending books and self-isolatingExercise, laundry, what counts as soap — Pets, moving and personal healthAnswers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingHow to minimize your risk.
  8. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it, the right mask to wear.

Subscribe to Mike Allen's Axios AM to follow our coronavirus coverage each morning from your inbox.

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

U.S. coronavirus updates

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios. This graphic includes "probable deaths" that New York City began reporting on April 14.

President Trump doubled down on his push to reopen schools, tweeting late Sunday: "Schools in our country should be opened ASAP."

Zoom in: Trump pushed back on NIAD Director Anthony Fauci cautioning against the move earlier this month, calling his concerns "not an acceptable answer."