Sep 27, 2019

A frustrated Trump returns to Washington after dramatic UN week

Trump after addressing the UN General Assembly. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

President Trump capped off UN week in New York on Thursday with what was intended as a private toast to UN Ambassador Kelly Craft and her staff, but which quickly became another dramatic episode in the fast-evolving Ukraine saga.

What he's saying: “I want to know, who’s the person that gave the whistleblower the information,” Trump said, according to audio leaked to the LA Times. “Because that’s close to a spy.”

  • “You know what we used to do in the old days when we were smart, right, with spies and treason? We used to handle it a little bit differently than we do now,” he continued.
  • Trump also referred to reporters as “animals” and “scum,” and described Joe Biden as “dumb as a rock.”

Driving the news: Trump was picking up in private where he left off in his last public event of the UN General Assembly on Wednesday night, at which he slammed Democrats and the press for undermining his efforts on the world stage.

  • He listed 28 countries with which he’d held meetings over a “tremendous three days,” while bemoaning the fact that it was all overshadowed by the frenzy back in Washington over impeachment.
  • Trump claimed wins this week on trade, following the completion of a partial trade deal with Japan affecting agriculture and digital trade, and immigration. Nayib Bukele, El Salvador’s new president, emphasized his cooperation with Trump on that issue yesterday following a recent asylum deal.

The tensions over nationalism vs. multilateralism that have animated recent global gatherings were still present here, though in slightly diluted form.

  • Trump blasted “globalists” and “socialists” in his address to the General Assembly, and he made only a brief stop at the week’s main event — a summit on climate change.
  • French President Emmanuel Macron used part of his speech to rebut Trump, urging leaders against “retreating into nationalism.” France and Germany launched an initiative on multilateralism intended in part to balance against Trump’s isolationist tendencies.
  • But Trump’s attention, and that of the country, seemed to be elsewhere. On multiple occasions, he referred unprompted back to the Ukraine drama.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky must also contend with the fallout from his July call with Trump, a summary of which reveals his repeated efforts to flatter Trump and his potentially damaging criticism of European leaders, including Germany’s Angela Merkel.

  • “I don’t want to be involved in … elections of USA,” Zelensky said Wednesday, seated next to Trump, likely with the knowledge that was no longer possible.
  • Hours later, a dejected Trump said of impeachment: “I thought we won. I thought it was dead.”

What’s next: Trump departed New York on Thursday for Washington, where the political ground was shifting in his absence.

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