Back home from Hanoi, Trump faces more
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[March 01, 2019]
By Steve Holland and Roberta Rampton
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Donald
Trump embarked on his trip to Vietnam with a political cloud hanging
over his head and keen to show progress on a thorny foreign policy issue
that has befuddled many of his predecessors.
Now, he is just back from a Hanoi summit with North Korea that collapsed
and the cloud has grown darker.
While Trump's much-hyped meeting with North Korea's Kim Jong Un broke up
in disagreement over sanctions linked to Pyongyang's nuclear weapons
program, testimony from his former lawyer Michael Cohen, who accused him
of breaking the law while in office, represented a potentially damaging
development for the president at home.
Trump faced challenges on other fronts: sensitive talks with China over
a trade deal, a slow-rolling crisis in Venezuela, tensions between India
and Pakistan and an attempt in Congress to kill his emergency
declaration aimed at securing funding for a wall on the border with
U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller may also end his probe into Russia's
meddling in the 2016 presidential election in a matter of days -
ensuring that speculation about the role of Trump and his campaign will
keep making headlines.
Before Trump left for Vietnam, he privately complained that Democrats
would go ahead with the Cohen testimony, violating an unwritten rule
against attacking the president while he is overseas. He also wished the
Mueller report was finished.
"He was very unhappy that they were holding the hearings while he was
overseas," said one person who was present and asked to remain unnamed.
"He was also very unhappy that the Mueller investigation had not been
concluded before he left. He felt that there was a cloud hanging over
While at the summit, Trump cut the talks about North Korea's
denuclearization short and the two sides gave conflicting accounts of
what happened, raising doubts about the future of one of Trump's
The White House had included a signing ceremony for a deal on Trump's
public schedule in Hanoi - and then abruptly canceled it. Trump's
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo complained about reporters being obsessed
with what he tried to dismiss as "process" and said they were "radically
"Y'all shouldn't get hung up on things like that," Pompeo told reporters
traveling with him.
[to top of second column]
President Donald Trump exits Air Force One arriving from his summit
meeting with North Korea's Kim Jong Un in Vietnam after landing for
a refueling stop at Elmendorf Air Force Base in Anchorage, Alaska,
U.S., February 28, 2019. REUTERS/Leah Millis
As the summit unfolded, Trump kept up to date with Cohen's testimony
from his suite at a Hanoi hotel despite the 12-hour time difference.
The conclusion among Trump's inner circle was that the president
came out of the week okay, feeling there was not much new in Cohen's
testimony and that Trump was getting credit for walking away from a
potentially bad deal with the North Koreans.
"There were no surprises this week," said Christopher Ruddy, a
conservative media mogul and a close friend of the president. "We
knew North Korea was a tough nut to crack and that Michael Cohen was
going to say a lot of nasty stuff. At the end of the day I don't
think it changes the political climate for President Trump," Ruddy
But the Cohen testimony raised questions among Trump allies about
his re-election campaign's ability to organize a proper response.
"Where's the defense of the president?" former New Jersey Governor
Chris Christie, a Trump friend, told ABC's "This Week" program on
Trump will have a friendly audience on Saturday when he addresses
the annual meeting of the Conservative Political Action Conference
in a Maryland suburb of Washington.
At the CPAC event on Thursday, Republican National Committee Chair
Ronna McDaniel was quick to defend Trump's handling of the Vietnam
“He walked away rightly because he said we’re not going to take away
the sanctions if you not going to de-nuclearize," she said to
(Additional reporting by James Oliphant; Editing by Tomasz Janowski)
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