At the U.N., Trump Can’t Escape His Political Problems Back in Washington




UNITED NATIONS — Just after 8 a.m. on Monday, President Trump set off from Trump Tower for his annual week on the diplomatic stage at the United Nations General Assembly. By the time he walked into the General Assembly building 10 minutes later for a session on the illicit global drug trade, domestic politics had already intervened.

Reporters waiting there asked him about the sexual misconduct allegations against his Supreme Court nominee, Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh, which had been published the night before in The New Yorker. Mr. Trump said the tangle of charges brought first by Christine Blasey Ford and now Deborah Ramirez could be one of the “single most unfair, unjust things to happen to a candidate for anything.”

Seizing the opportunity to defend his nominee, Mr. Trump said he stood behind Judge Kavanaugh and dismissed the claims of the two women as “totally political.” Then he walked on into the chamber and spoke to the assembled members about the evils of drug trafficking around the world.

Political tempests often intrude on presidents, whether they are traveling overseas or playing host to foreign leaders at the White House. Still, it is hard to recall a General Assembly that opened against a backdrop of such political turmoil, on so many fronts.

As Mr. Trump performed the rituals of a statesman — shaking hands with allies, signing a free-trade agreement with South Korea — he kept getting drawn back into the political storms in Washington. At one point, he tried to regain the initiative, announcing that he planned to meet North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, in the “not-too-distant future.”

In normal times, such an announcement would have commanded major headlines. But it was largely lost in a second drama that erupted on Monday over the job status of the deputy attorney general, Rod J. Rosenstein.

Shortly after 10:30, reports began circulating that Mr. Rosenstein was on his way to the White House, where he expected to be dismissed. His fate had been unclear since The New York Times reported last week that he offered to tape his conversations with the president and discussed invoking the 25th Amendment to remove him from office.

White House officials had scheduled a briefing for 11 a.m. with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo; the American ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki R. Haley; and the national security adviser, John R. Bolton. And the three officials showed up determined to press the administration’s foreign policy priorities, Iran and North Korea.

“Happy UNGA!” a cheery Ms. Haley said, using the clunky acronym for the United Nations General Assembly. “We got a great start today.”Trump

By then, however, reporters wanted to know only whether Ms. Haley and Mr. Rosenstein had ever discussed removing Mr. Trump from office. Both she and Mr. Pompeo indignantly denied taking part in, or hearing, any conversations about the 25th Amendment. They also took the opportunity to pledge their fealty to the president.

“I have been at the center of this administration, along with lots of other folks, from virtually Day 1,” Mr. Pompeo declared. “I’ve never heard anyone talk about it, whisper about it, joke about it in any way.”

Ms. Haley said: “It is completely and totally absurd. No one is questioning the president at all. If anything, we’re trying to keep up the pace with him.”

As it happens, Mr. Trump had some down time Monday to dwell on Mr. Rosenstein. After his morning meeting on drug trafficking, he returned for several hours to Trump Tower, where he and Mr. Rosenstein had a phone conversation, at Mr. Rosenstein’s request. The two men agreed to defer any action for a couple of days.

“We’re going to have a meeting on Thursday,” Mr. Trump told reporters later, as he sat down with President Moon Jae-in of South Korea. “We want to have transparency, we want to have openness, and I look forward to meeting with Rod at that time.”

“Right now, today, we’re meeting with a lot of great people, including President Moon,” he said, gesturing to his smiling guest.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here