“They’ve paid me a fortune.”
From eyewitness accounts, a CNN producer describes Trump’s handling of his first foreign policy crisis. Emergency diplomacy at Mar-a-Lago: in the end it’s about the president’s cash flow.
By Kevin Liptak, CNN White House producer, February 13, 2017
(CNN)The iceberg wedge salads, dripping with blue cheese dressing, had just been served on the terrace of Mar-a-Lago Saturday when the call to President Donald Trump came in: North Korea had launched an intermediate-range ballistic missile, its first challenge to international rules since Trump was sworn in three weeks ago.
The launch, which wasn’t expected, presented Trump with one of the first breaking national security incidents of his presidency. It also noisily disrupted what was meant to be an easygoing weekend of high-level male bonding with the more sobering aspects of global diplomacy.
Sitting alongside Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, with whom he’d spent most of the day golfing, Trump took the call on a mobile phone at his table, which was set squarely in the middle of the private club’s dining area.
Even as a flurry of advisers and translators descended upon the table carrying papers and phones for their bosses to consult, dinner itself proceeded apace. Waiters cleared the wedge salads and brought along the main course as Trump and Abe continued consulting with aides.
First lady Melania Trump and Abe’s wife, Akie, remained seated across from their husbands, speaking quietly through a translator amid the activity. Earlier in the day, the women had toured a nearby Japanese garden and visited the gothic Bethesda-by-the-Sea church, where Trump and his wife were married in 2005.
Eventually Trump and Abe, along with their collection of aides, stood and moved from the dining terrace and toward a marble-trimmed ballroom, whose gilded columns were concealed by more sober-looking black drapes.
Standing in front of an American and Japanese flag, a stern-faced Abe called the launch “absolutely intolerable,” and insisted North Korea adhere to United Nations Security Council resolutions barring it from testing of ballistic missiles.
Trump, in his short remarks, didn’t mention the launch. He used a short statement to vow support for Japan instead.
Then he grabbed a microphone.