- The Washington Times
Sunday, May 28, 2017

President Trump declared he knocked it out of the park during his first overseas trip and prominent Republicans agreed Sunday, saying he reassured allies and talked tough when necessary, though Democrats argued that he fell short and faces stiffer tests back home.

Mr. Trump’s ambitious trip took him to Saudi Arabia, Israel, Vatican City, Belgium and Italy. He sealed a $110 billion arms sale with the Saudis, stressed that it is Islamic leaders, not Western politicians or diplomats, who are best able to defeat terrorism, and said his push to compel NATO members to pay more of their fair share is already producing results.

Sen. Bob Corker, Tennessee Republican, told Mr. Trump early Sunday that he could “not be more pleased” with the nine-day tour.

“The trip was executed to near perfection, and it appears the president has made great progress on the broad range of objectives his team articulated to me when I met with senior White House and State Department officials during their preparations,” said Mr. Corker, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

“The challenges we face around the world are vast, but with a strategic focus on our long-term goals, I am confident we can reassert U.S. leadership, strengthen key alliances and improve security both at home and abroad,” he said.

The trip marked Mr. Trump’s official debut on the world stage and allowed him to put physical distance between himself and the whiff of scandal emanating from multiple probes into suspected Russian interference in the presidential campaign, and whether the Trump campaign had any role in it.

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“I thought it was overall a good trip, reassured Israel, good message to Saudi Arabia. NATO needs to pay more, but it’s probably the wrong venue at the 9/11 memorial [in Brussels],” Sen. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican, told CNN.

Mr. Graham was referring to Mr. Trump’s tough stance on NATO allies who don’t spend enough on defense.

Democrats, meanwhile, said Mr. Trump missed the mark by selling arms and swaying to a traditional sword dance with the Saudis instead of addressing their human rights record.

“Not talking about the real human rights concerns in Saudi Arabia, it’s almost like reducing America from its light and hope that it presents to the world to just a utilitarian kind of transactional relationship,” Sen. Cory A. Booker, New Jersey Democrat, told CNN.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, said Mr. Trump failed to redeem himself in Europe.

“President Trump’s brash and condescending lecture to NATO leaders disrespected our closest allies and dishonored the common defense pact that has been a guarantor of global security for nearly seven decades,” she said.

Indeed, German Chancellor Angela Merkel seemed to share that sentiment, telling a campaign event Sunday in a Bavarian beer tent that the Group of Seven summit left her more convinced that the European Union nations may have to go it alone in the wake of political events in the U.S. and Britain.

“The times in which we can fully count on others are somewhat over, as I have experienced in the past few days,” she told the crowd of some 2,500. “All I can say is that we Europeans must really take our destiny into our own hands.”

According to Germany’s DPA News Agency, she held out a warning that if the U.S. and Britain appear unreliable, then the continent may have to appease Russia.

She stressed the importance of being good neighbors “wherever that is possible, including with Russia, but also with others.”

Critics of the trip also said Mr. Trump appeared aloof at times, left allies guessing on his commitment to the Paris climate pact and appeared to nudge aside the prime minister of Montenegro before a group photo.

Unbowed, Mr. Trump took a victory lap during an address to U.S. troops in Italy on Saturday.

“I think we hit a home run no matter where we went,” Mr. Trump said at Naval Air Station Sigonella, in Sicily. “And now we’re getting on that very big plane and heading back to Washington. I can think of no better way to conclude our first foreign trip than to spend time with you.”

Back on U.S. soil, Mr. Trump will spend time coping with the fallout from a Washington Post report that said his senior adviser and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, asked Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak if they could set up a secret channel of communication between the Trump transition team and the Kremlin, while using Russian facilities to avoid detection.

Mr. Trump ignored a shouted question about the firestorm around his son-in-law upon his arrival at the White House, though he wasted no time in blasting the media for relying on anonymous sources in unflattering reports about his team.

“It is my opinion that many of the leaks coming out of the White House are fabricated lies made up by the #FakeNews media,” Mr. Trump said in a series of tweets.

“Whenever you see the words ‘sources say’ in the fake news media, and they don’t mention names it is very possible that those sources don’t exist but are made up by fake news writers. #FakeNews is the enemy!” Mr. Trump said in a series of tweets.

His chief lieutenants, meanwhile, kept the focus on his performance abroad, saying Mr. Trump reaffirmed American leadership on the global stage.

White House National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster said the president succeeded in showing the world that Islam, Christianity and Judaism have a common purpose in defeating terrorism.

“What’s been clear through the whole trip is how the kind of relationships that we have, that the president has helped strengthen and advance, contribute to America’s security,” he said. “What we have seen is the president welcomed very enthusiastically in the Middle East, welcomed enthusiastically in Rome, and in Brussels.”

During his address to the troops, Mr. Trump said his meetings at the G-7 summit on trade and security were also fruitful.

“It was a tremendously productive meeting where I strengthened America’s bonds,” the president said. “We have great bonds with other countries. We concluded a historic week for our country.”

• Dave Boyer can be reached at dboyer@washingtontimes.com.

• Tom Howell Jr. can be reached at thowell@washingtontimes.com.

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