Bugged and storming: Trump lashes out about bedbugs and nuking hurricanes
After a weekend of roller-coaster meetings with foreign leaders in France, President Trump turned to less weighty matters Tuesday, denying a bedbug problem at the troubled Trump golf resort in Miami, where he wants to host next year’s G-7 summit, and rejecting a report that he pondered using nuclear weapons against Atlantic hurricanes, a move that scientists say would spread radioactivity around the globe.
In railing to his 63.6 million Twitter followers, Trump gave those stories global visibility — demonstrating his penchant for taking arms against even minor slights, and the scattershot focus that defines his stream-of-consciousness presidency.
Trump’s myriad tweets, like his news conferences, are a mash-up of the momentous and the minuscule, a digital record of whatever is occupying his thoughts — and drawing his ire — from moment to moment. Oftentimes, they undermine the agenda he is hoping to advance.
Even as he insisted that his three days at the G-7 summit in Biarritz, France, were “a great success for the USA” and a harmonious meeting of allies, Trump fired off tweets that placed him well outside the group consensus on such critical issues as climate change, trade tariffs and whether Russia should be readmitted to the elite group of industrialized economies.
Trump skipped the G-7 working session on climate, biodiversity and oceans (he twice said he planned to attend while the meeting was underway). In his absence, the other six leaders pledged to create a $20-million emergency fund to help Brazil control vast fires burning in the Amazon, which conservationists view as a serious threat to the environment.
Back at the White House on Tuesday, a day when he had no public events on his schedule, Trumpsupport for Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, a fiery populist whom many leaders blame for encouraging the clearing of vast swaths of tropical forest and for not responding adequately to the devastating blazes in what has been called the world’s lungs.
Bolsonaro “is working very hard on the Amazon fires and in all respects doing a great job for the people of Brazil - Not easy,” Trump said in a tweet that put him at odds with his G-7 counterparts. “He and his country have the full and complete support of the USA!”
Trump already has cast his shadow over next year’s G-7, announcing in France that he wants to host it at Trump National Doral Miami. He batted away questions about whether it was illegal or unethical to force other governments to pay to attend a conference at a property that he owned.
Twice on Monday, first while meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and then during a free-wheeling press conference, he lauded his resort — its “tremendous acreage,” its “very big, great conference rooms” and its proximity to Miami’s international airport, which, he noted, “takes planes from everywhere.”
The 643-room resort has seen its business suffer since the 2016 election, with sharp declines in net operating income. But Trump insisted his intentions weren’t avaricious.
“In my opinion, I’m not going to make any money. I don’t want to make money. I don’t care about making money,” Trump told reporters after delivering another infomercial about the amenities at Doral.
On Tuesday, he sought to counter a newly resurfaced three-paragraph report in the Miami Herald from January 2017 that said Doral had settled a lawsuit about a bedbug infestation, again trying to sell the resort for a G-7 meeting.
“No bedbugs at Doral,” Trump. “The Radical Left Democrats, upon hearing that the perfectly located (for the next G-7) Doral National MIAMI was under consideration for the next G-7, spread that false and nasty rumor. Not nice!”
Also on Trump’s mind was a report by Axios that in 2017 he had repeatedly asked senior national security officials about the feasibility of dropping nuclear weapons into the eye of approaching hurricanes to prevent them from making landfall. The article said a National Security Council memo was drawn up, but the “bomb the hurricanes” idea never entered the formal policy process.
Calling it a “phony story,” Trumpa denial: “This is so ridiculous, never happened!”
The idea isn’t new, however. In 2014, the Hurricane Research Division of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, a federal agency, said the question arose every hurricane season.
“Apart from the fact that this might not even alter the storm, this approach neglects the problem that the released radioactive fallout would fairly quickly move with the trade winds to affect land areas and cause devastating environmental problems. Needless to say, this is not a good idea,” it wrote on its Frequently Asked Questions page.
Trump also tweeted praise Tuesday for Italy’s lame duck prime minister, Giuseppe Conte, who was forced to resign last week amid a call for new elections by Italy’s ascendant populist interior minister, Matteo Salvini. But Conte could hold on to power if he can form a new consensus government, which Trump appeared to back.
“Starting to look good” for Conte, Trump tweeted. “Represented Italy powerfully at the G-7. Loves his Country greatly & works well with the USA. A very talented man who will hopefully remain Prime Minister!”
Although G-7 allies don’t want Conte to lose power to a nationalist, Trump’s praise coincided with Conte’s support for one of the president’s more controversial proposals: readmitting Russia to the G-7. The group expelled Moscow in 2014 over its invasion of Ukraine and seizure of Crimea.
Trump claimed in France that “a number of people” in the G-7 wanted Russia back in, but Conte was the only leader who indicated approval.
Trump’s tweets have defined his presidency as much as anything he has achieved. He doesn’t keep a computer at his desk and doesn’t send emails. He instead calls for aides to bring him his “typing pad” and conveys his thoughts in 280-character bursts, often reveling in the surprise or outrage they generate.
On Sunday, with White House aides seemingly blindsided by the surprise appearance of Iran’s foreign minister at the G-7, Trump returned to his suite at the beachfront Hotel du Palais and focused largely on other matters: He fired offfor Regis Philbin and Sean Connery, a congratulatory note for Fox News personality Jesse Watters about his engagement, and for one of the network’s few Democratic commentators, Donna Brazile.
On Monday, he said he supported French President Emmanuel Macron’s unexpected diplomacy with Iran, even stating at a closing news conference that he was open to meeting Iran’s president, Hassan Rouhani, “if the circumstances were correct or right.”
Administration officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, quickly cautioned that Trump was unlikely to meet with Rouhani anytime soon, especially not if Macron or other leaders wanted to join in. The president, they said, was only interested in a one-on-one meeting, similar to his headline-grabbing but so far unsuccessful three splashy summits with North Korean ruler Kim Jong Un.
At his news conference, Trump continued to gripe about his media coverage but made no apology for an operating style that often left friends and foes alike in a state of confusion.
“I don’t consider it instability,” he said, responding to a question about his “back and forth” on so many matters.
“Sorry,” he said. “It’s the way I negotiate.”
Get our Essential Politics newsletter
The latest news, analysis and insights from our politics team.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.