5 takeaways from Trump’s dramatic weekend with world leaders

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The gathering of the group of 20 industrialized nations concluded on Saturday amid violent protests in Hamburg, Germany.

President Trump returns home with his supporters believing he has made a lasting statement about the U.S. role in the world and how he intends to govern at home.

Critics see an increasingly isolated U.S. and a president who’s desperate to form a bond with Russian President Vladimir Putin, a longtime American adversary.

Here are five takeaways from an explosive weekend of meetings with world leaders.


Trump seeks strategic partnership with Russia

Trump used his high-stakes meeting with Putin to follow through on his campaign pledge to pursue better relations with Russia.

While the president confronted his Russian counterpart about his government’s meddling in the 2016 election, it’s not clear how hard he pushed the issue. What is clear is that Trump wants to put the past behind him in order to engage with the Kremlin.

The two leaders exited the meeting with a deal for a partial ceasefire in the Syrian civil war, a longtime source of tension between Washington and Moscow. They spoke about closer cooperation in the fight against terrorism and even about creating a bilateral framework to address Russian cyber attacks.

Trump and Putin’s admiration for one another was on full display.

The president seemed undaunted by the sweeping special counsel investigation into his campaign’s ties to Moscow — and the accompanying domestic political pressure — and called his meeting with Putin “tremendous.” The meeting lasted two hours and 16 minutes, well beyond its allotted time, and not even the first lady could convince them to wrap it up.

While Trump may be pleased, the huddle provided fresh fodder for Democrats and the foreign policy establishment who worry that closer ties with Russia, especially after its election interference campaign, will undermine U.S. interests.

Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) called Trump’s meeting with Putin “the lowest moment of all” and an “embarrassment to our country and our ideals.”

Trump’s ‘America First’ policies resonates with conservative base

The highlight of Trump’s second foreign trip came before the G-20 summit even convened.

Trump set the tone for his meetings with world leaders at a speech in Warsaw, Poland that was cheered by the thousands who gathered there and by Trump’s conservative base back home.

In it, Trump put a global spin on his “America First” mantra, as he trumpeted Western values in a fiercely nationalistic speech that unnerved his critics.

“The West will never, ever be broken,” Trump told an audience at Krasinkski Square, where a monument to the 1944 Warsaw Uprising against German occupation stands. “Our values will prevail, our people will thrive and our civilization will triumph.”

The speech and response had the White House brimming with optimism ahead of the labyrinth of political traps that awaited Trump in Hamburg.

The conservative Wall Street Journal editorial board, which has been fiercely critical of the president, called it his “defining speech” and a “determined and affirmative defense of Western tradition” that “finally offered the core of what could become a governing philosophy.”

Trump may never endear himself to Washington’s political class, which finds his protectionist rhetoric outdated and offensive. Many Republicans remain at arm’s length, fearful that the president is erratic and prone to offend.

But Trump’s base never seems to tire of his “America First” rhetoric or the ways in which he tweaks global leaders with demands for fair trade or policies that prioritize the U.S. over foreign strategic partnerships. The Warsaw speech was the latest example of the White House tapping into the deep anti-globalist streak that energizes his base.

U.S. isolation on full display

Trump’s stances on climate change and trade have rattled U.S. allies and partners from Asia to Europe, highlighting the extent of American isolation under the new president.

The final statement of the G-20 leaders, usually an anodyne document, exposed the divide on climate policy.

It contained a full-throated endorsement of the Paris climate agreement that Trump rejected last month. The leaders “took note” of the U.S. exit, stated that the pact is “irreversible” and asserted that other nations would be “moving swiftly toward its full implementation.”

Leaders entered the summit fearful that the Trump administration’s threat of steel tariffs could spark a global trade war. Trump is expected to make a decision in the coming days whether to slap new tariffs or other restrictions on steel imports, which would anger China and other major trading partners.

But after difficult negotiations, the countries eventually reached an agreement on trade.

The leaders all agreed they would “fight protectionism and all unfair trade practices and recognize the role of legitimate trade defense instruments in this regard.”

That accord will be put to the test if Trump decides to go ahead and impose new tariffs on steel.

Ivanka steps on to world stage

Ivanka Trump and the White House have carefully managed the First Daughter’s image, sending her out to roundtable events and to tour facilities for photo-ops that fall into her wheelhouse of business management and women’s issues.

That has drawn scorn from Trump’s critics, who cast her as a faux-human rights liberal and an enabler for her father.

But the G-20 summit proved Ivanka Trump could be a huge asset to the administration and potentially help broaden the president’s appeal.

In Hamburg on Saturday, surrounded by world leaders, Ivanka Trump unveiled a $300 million program at the World Bank that will provide loans, mentoring and access to the financial markets for women-led start-ups, particularly in developing countries.

The White House and World Bank officials credited Ivanka Trump with coming up with the idea for the fund, which hopes to begin disbursing loans by the end of the year.

It is the one Trump administration policy that the entirety of the G-20 summit could get behind.

German chancellor Angela Merkel praised Ivanka Trump’s efforts in getting the initiative off the ground. The program received investments and ringing endorsements from most of the leaders of the G-20 nations.

Trump, who has been accused of sexism for some of his attacks against women, pledged a $50 million U.S. investment in the fund and used the announcement to speak at length about the importance of women in the workforce.

“I’m very proud of my daughter Ivanka, always have been from day one, I have to tell you that,” Trump said. Then he joked: “If she weren’t my daughter it would be so much easier for her. It might be the only bad thing going for her.”

Melania Trump also attracted praise, including from The Drudge Report, which ran a headline, “Trump women steal show.” The First Lady was credited for smoothing over any potential awkwardness during the Putin meeting.

Trump won’t shy away from confrontations

Feuding is one of the things Trump likes best and he will not rein it in just because the world is watching or because it upsets the political talkers on cable news.

The G-20 is ostensibly about forging global economic partnerships. But on the first day of the summit, Trump instead went global with his media feud, calling on a friendly reporter at a press conference, who set him up to lash out at his enemies at CNN and NBC.

The president later reignited his war with Hillary Clinton’s former campaign, targeting John Podesta over Twitter by claiming that the Democratic campaign chairman’s hacked emails were the talk of the G-20.

Then there were Trump’s confrontations with world leaders.

Sitting next to the president of Mexico, Trump reiterated that he intends to build a wall along the Southern border to block illegal immigrants seeking entry into the U.S.

Trump broached the issue of U.S. trade imbalances with every world leader he met, including at a joint press conference with Chinese President Xi Jinping, even as the issue loomed over diplomatic relations between the two countries.

But the most notable confrontation came with Russian President Vladmir Putin over Moscow’s meddling in the 2016 election.

According to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s telling, Trump repeatedly confronted Putin on the matter, even as the Russian president denied involvement.

That two-hour meeting with Putin was otherwise chummy. Indeed, the icy and awkward response Trump received from world leaders at the G-7 meetings seemed a distant memory.

Trump appeared to be part of the gang this time around, mingling and chatting and exhibiting warmth, even with leaders like Merkel, with whom he has serious issues.

But Trump’s confrontational style and seeming desire to always have a conflict brewing continues to be a hallmark of his presidency even while overseas.

Tags Charles Schumer Donald Trump Foreign policy of the Donald Trump administration Hillary Clinton Ivanka Trump Vladimir Putin

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