Jul 22, 2018

Scoop: World leaders turning Trump tricks against him

Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

World leaders are learning to play President Trump using his own set of predictable negotiating tricks. The most vivid example of this: French President Emmanuel Macron bragging to Trump that he was jamming him by stealing "The Art of the Deal" techniques, Axios has learned. 

The scene: Perched on white leather armchairs in their bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the NATO Summit in Brussels, Trump and Macron soon turned to the unavoidable subject: The expanding trade war between the United States and Europe.

  • Trump, after whacking the Europeans with steel and aluminum tariffs, has been frustrated by the European Union's retribution. The Europeans have designed tariffs with the goal of inflicting as much political pain as possible on Trump. They targeted Kentucky's bourbon industry, Harley Davidson motorcycles and America's iconic Levi brand jeans.

During their tête-à-tête, Trump suggested to Macron that he tell the European Union they ought to negotiate with the U.S., according to a source familiar with the conversation.

Macron replied that no, actually he was not in favor of negotiating under threat.

  • "I read the Art of the Deal," the French president told Trump, with a smile. "I know that we need to retaliate first so we have some leverage in the negotiation."

Why it matters: Like many foreign leaders, Macron has learned that the only language the U.S. president understands is the un-nuanced, transactional language of dealmaking and the blunt projection of strength. It's why Trump is drawn to strongmen and belittles those he considers "weak" like Canada's Trudeau (whom Trump publicly refers to as "Justin.")

What we're hearing: A senior Trump administration official told me another story that illuminates this part of Trump's mindset. As we know, Trump was glued to the television as former FBI director James Comey testified before Congress on March 20 of 2017.

  • Trump would never admit this publicly, but he told people afterwards that he was impressed by the performance of his Democratic nemesis Adam Schiff. Trump hates Schiff and calls him a horrible liar. But he marveled at Schiff's tough and surgical opening statement that day.
  • More than six months after the hearing, Trump told an aide how impressive he considered Schiff's performance to be. "This is like September or October last year," a source who discussed the matter with Trump recalled. "Trump was like, 'I watched that [Schiff's statement] and thought I had committed a crime!'"
  • "He has respect for the adversaries that have the balls to take it to him like he takes it to them," the source added.

The Chinese have absorbed this lesson the best. They have engaged in a trade war with no armistice in sight. Trump has threatened the Chinese with tariffs on more than $500 billion of Chinese imports; but, as we've reported, he's playing a dangerous game. China is fully prepared to retaliate and out-wait America.

The bottom line: President Xi is playing Trump's game with a much better political hand. The Chinese leader enjoys the advantages of authoritarianism — "president for life" as Trump admiringly calls him.

  • Unlike Trump, Xi doesn't have to worry about annoying obstacles like Congress and elections. And while a trade war would hurt both nations badly — as my colleagues have written — a state-run government can do more to artificially prop up its economy than a capitalistic one.

Go deeper

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 5 p.m. ET: 716,101 — Total deaths: 33,854 — Total recoveries: 148,900.
  2. U.S.: Leads the world in cases. Total confirmed cases as of 5 p.m. ET: 136,880 — Total deaths: 2,409 — Total recoveries: 2,612.
  3. Federal government latest: The first federal prisoner to die from coronavirus was reported from a correctional facility in Louisiana on Sunday.
  4. Public health updates: Fauci says 100,000 to 200,000 Americans could die from virus.
  5. State updates: Louisiana governor says state is on track to exceed ventilator capacity by end of this week — Cuomo says Trump's mandatory quarantine comments "panicked" some people into fleeing New York
  6. World updates: Italy on Sunday reports 756 new deaths, bringing its total 10,779. Spain reports almost 840 dead, another new daily record that bring its total to over 6,500.
  7. What should I do? Answers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingQ&A: Minimizing your coronavirus risk
  8. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it.

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

Trump touts press briefing "ratings" as U.S. coronavirus case surge

Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

President Trump sent about a half-dozen tweets on Sunday touting the high television ratings that his coronavirus press briefings have received, selectively citing a New York Times article that compared them to "The Bachelor" and "Monday Night Football."

Why it matters: The president has been holding daily press briefings in the weeks since the coronavirus pandemic was declared, but news outlets have struggled with how to cover them live — as Trump has repeatedly been found to spread misinformation and contradict public health officials.

World coronavirus updates: Total cases surge to over 700,000

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's Health Ministry. Note: China numbers are for the mainland only and U.S. numbers include repatriated citizens and confirmed plus presumptive cases from the CDC

There are now than more than 700,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus around the world, according to data from Johns Hopkins. The virus has now killed more than 32,000 people — with Italy alone reporting over 10,000 deaths.

The big picture: Governments around the world have stepped up public health and economic measures to stop the spread of the virus and soften the financial impact. In the U.S., now the site of the largest outbreak in the world, President Trump said Saturday he would issue a "strong" travel advisory for New York, New Jersey and parts of Connecticut.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 3 hours ago - Health