SHANNON, Ireland — He was treated to full royal pageantry in London, an aerial tour of the Normandy landings in France, and a round of golf at his luxury resort on the coast of Ireland. Now, it’s back to reality for Donald Trump.
A growing number of political troubles will greet the president as he returns to Washington, fresh off a five-day swing through France and the United Kingdom, where he and his adult children enjoyed a series of elaborate affairs. Trump’s lengthy foreign trip — one of the last he’s expected to make before launching his re-election campaign later this month — was seen as a roaring success among his aides.
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But it didn’t take long for the president to refocus on special counsel Robert Mueller and his feud with Speaker Nancy Pelosi as he wrapped up his visit, trampling on positive news coverage that he received for his speech on the 75th anniversary of D-Day.
In a series of early-morning tweets, Trump quoted Fox News’ Sean Hannity describing Mueller’s report on Russian election meddling as “pure political garbage” and claimed the report was “totally biased” against him. His comments came just hours after he received acclaim, even from longtime critics, for the remarks he gave in front of hundreds of World War II veterans gathered near a cemetery for American soldiers at Omaha Beach.
“This is perhaps the most on-message moment of Donald Trump’s presidency today… He stayed on script, stayed on message and, I think rose to the moment,” CNN White House reporter Jim Acosta told the network following Trump’s remarks.
Conservative commentator Bill Kristol, who has actively sought a GOP candidate to primary Trump in 2020, simply tweeted: “A good speech.”
Such praise from Trump’s critics is not expected to last long.
His recent threat to launch new tariffs against Mexico, unless the country ratchets up its interior immigration enforcement, has caused an uproar on Capitol Hill, where Republicans continue to discuss ways to block the move. And when Trump declared Thursday that he’s considering raising tariffs on China by another $300 billion, Beijing responded sharply.
“If the United States willfully decides to escalate tensions, we’ll fight to the end,” Gao Feng, a spokesman for China’s Commerce Ministry, told reporters at a briefing Thursday.
Then there’s Trump’s rapidly deteriorating relationship with Pelosi (D-Calif.), with whom the White House is supposed to be working on a $2 trillion infrastructure plan.
Pelosi, who was in the crowd Thursday at the D-Day ceremony in Colleville-sur-Mer, France, told senior Democrats earlier this week that she prefers to see the president “in prison” rather than impeached. Pelosi’s colleagues on the House Judiciary Committee further stoked the president’s ire this week when Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) revealed that Trump’s former communications director Hope Hicks partially defied a White House request to ignore a subpoena from the committee when she agreed to hand over documents related to the 2016 presidential campaign.
It was the latest setback for Trump as he and his aides battle a barrage of oversight and ethics investigations led by House Democrats.
And Trump appeared especially piqued during an interview with Fox News’ Laura Ingraham that was recorded before the D-Day ceremonies began but didn’t air until Thursday evening, after the president had wrapped up his public obligations.
“I think she’s a disgrace. I don’t think she’s a talented person,” Trump said of Pelosi. “I’ve tried to be nice to her because I would have liked to have gotten some deals done. She’s incapable of doing deals. She’s a nasty, vindictive, horrible person.”
It was a jarring contrast to Pelosi’s posture, who told reporters in Normandy, “I don’t talk about the president while I’m out of the country.”
Even before Trump left Europe, the reality of the political landscape he was returning to set in with news that his first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, had abruptly fired his entire legal team — the same group of lawyers who arranged a plea deal with Mueller in 2017 if Flynn agreed to cooperate with the special counsel and his team. The development came as audio surfaced from a voicemail that one of Trump’s personal attorneys, John Dowd, left for Flynn on the eve of his plea deal. The voicemail, in which Dowd advised Flynn to keep the White House looped in throughout Mueller’s investigation despite his position as a cooperating witness, has been described as potentially incriminating by some legal experts.
Trump’s homecoming means the end of a trip that he’s described as particularly memorable. At a bilateral meeting Thursday with French President Emmanuel Macron, Trump described that morning’s ceremonies to honor D-Day veterans as “a special day.”
But it was his numerous interactions with Queen Elizabeth II that Trump appeared to truly revel in.
“I found this to be a very – sort of an amazing period of time, especially having spent so much time with the queen, who I think is an incredible lady,” he said to laughter from Macron. “It was very interesting talking to her, being with her for so many hours. I feel like I know her so well and she certainly knows me very well right now.”
Trump brought his four adult children along for the trip and was also joined by more than a half-dozen members of his senior staff – nearly all of whom attended the lavish state banquet at Buckingham Palace on Monday night, where they were seated among members of the royal household and parliament.
One senior White House official claimed to have been approached by several U.K. officials who said they had rarely seen her majesty or her son, Prince Charles, so jovial in the company of a foreign leader.
Trump himself echoed that sentiment in his interview with Ingraham. “There are those that say they have never seen the queen have a better time, a more animated time,” he said.
Some of Trump’s remarks overseas underscored his tendency to make sweeping statements without first considering the consequences. During a press conference with British Prime Minister Theresa May, for example, Trump said “everything” would be on the table in post-Brexit trade talks, prompting fear of U.S. meddling in the U.K.’s National Health Service (NHS). And his verbal tirades against London Mayor Sadiq Khan were comparable to the way he treats political opponents back in Washington.
By the end of the trip, however, the consensus among Trump’s aides and allies seemed to be that the success of his visit, according to their view, might mitigate some of the domestic problems he continues to grapple with.
“By Trump’s own standards, he has not behaved particularly badly on this trip,” said Amanda Sloat, a former State Department official who covers European issues at the Brookings Institution. “He clearly enjoyed the pomp and circumstance of this visit, which was focused more on ceremony than substance.”