President Xi and Trump’s First Big Foreign Policy Test

President Donald Trump has three big meetings this week with important world leaders. The first two come from the Middle East. On Monday, Trump will meet for several hours with Egyptian president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi at the White House, followed by a Wednesday meeting with King Abdullah II of Jordan.

Following that is the most important: a summit with Chinese president Xi Jinping on Thursday. Throughout his campaign, Trump marketed himself as a “tough” dealer with China, particularly on trade. There’s been little from the Trump administration on its broad Pacific policy, in which China plays a key role. In his young presidency, Trump has backed off hawkish diplomatic talk regarding Taiwan, and his secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, has been accused of parroting talking points favored by Beijing. The president’s been untested on any major trade issues so far, and the threat of a weaponized nuclear program in North Korea is growing.

Needless to say there’s a lot hanging in the balance with respect to China, and Thursday’s meeting with Xi may tell us a lot about how hard the Trump administration really is willing to push when it comes to trade, national security, and diplomacy.

Trump on Alliances

The Financial Times published an interview with Trump on Sunday, wherein the president was asked about everything from North Korea and China to the future of health-care legislation.

On the foreign policy side, there’s not much new or surprising—Trump says he has “great respect” for China and President Xi, that getting Chinese cooperation on North Korea will require an agreement on trade, and that he won’t publicly lay out his negotiation strategy.

There was also this bit of insight into how President Trump views one particular component of foreign policy. Prompted by the interviewers about the idea that Trump does not appreciate the “value of alliances,” the president responded: “Alliances have not always worked out very well for us. But I do believe in alliances. I believe in relationships. And I believe in partnerships. But alliances have not always worked out very well for us. OK?”

Kushner in Iraq

Jared Kushner, senior advisor to the president and the husband of Ivanka Trump, is currently in Iraq with the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Marine general Joseph Dunford. Asked what the 36-year-old White House aide is doing in the country, an administration official told me Kushner was “seeing for himself and supporting an ally.”

Kushner’s tour with Dunford comes after Defense secretary James Mattis visited Iraq back in February. Neither President Trump nor Secretary of State Tillerson have been to the Middle East nation.

The prime minister of Iraq, Haider al-Abadi, met with the president in Washington last month. Among the small number of administration officials at the table with Abadi were Mattis, chief of staff Reince Priebus, National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster, Commerce secretary Wilbur Ross, and…Kushner.

A Potential Hatch Act Violation?

Political Twitter lit up over the weekend after the Dan Scavino, President Trump’s director of social media and a White House official, tweeted this on Saturday:

Amash, a libertarian Republican congressman who has long been a thorn in the side of GOP leadership in the House, responded with a swipe about the “Trumpstablishment.”

Scavino’s tweet, as a number of armchair lawyers (and a few real ones) on Twitter suggested, could be in violation of the Hatch Act, which blocks most executive branch officials from engaging in political activity. Hatch Act violations are investigated by the Office of the Special Counsel, an independent federal agency. A source at OSC said on Sunday that while the office is aware of Scavino’s tweet, he was unaware of a formal Hatch Act complaint against the White House aide. The OSC, the source said, will discuss the issue Monday.

Meanwhile, Scavino has a message for those accusing him of a legal violation:

Song of the Day

“Rainy Days and Mondays,” Carpenters.

This post originally appeared on Weekly Standard


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