The Time Trump Held a National Security Chat at Mar-a-Lago


Photo: Nicholas Kamm/AFP via Getty Images

Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign and his four years in office contained so much daily weirdness, wackiness, and horror that the human brain couldn’t comprehend it all. As Trump gets close to the White House again, “That Happened brings you the surreal moments you might have forgotten — or blocked from your memory.

Some of the most powerfully strange moments of the Trump administration need little context. I’m thinking here of the president’s lament to Ruth Bader Ginsburg set to Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer.” Others grow richer in meaning over time. I’m thinking here of the time Trump held a top-secret national security meeting about the North Korean nuclear threat among a bunch of people eating on a patio at Mar-a-Lago.

It was February 2017, the second month of his presidency, and Donald Trump’s national security apparatus was already in crisis. He was spending some time at his Mar-a-Lago resort, trying to decide if he should fire a guy named Michael Flynn — a former general who proved in just a few weeks that he was wholly unfit to serve as national security adviser. To blow off steam, the president decided to go golfing with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan, who was visiting at the time. But hours later, Trump faced one of the first crises of his young administration. North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un had launched a surprise intercontinental ballistic missile test, and Trump had to decide what to do. Worse, this was all happening during Trump and Abe’s dinner. Amid resortgoers overpaying for Mar-a-Lago steaks, with a piano player plunking at a keyboard, national security adviser Flynn and White House adviser Steve Bannon gathered close to Trump and splayed out documents on the table.

CNN reports that the dinner continued: The leaders’ wedge salads were cleared, and Trump and Abe’s main course brought out, possible looming nuclear war be damned. The patio was lit only by candles, so aides held up their phone flashlights — and nearby diners said they could see everything. On social media, visitors posted photos of the extremely unsecure security incident, including a shot of the U.S. official responsible for carrying the “nuclear football” — the briefcase containing the launch codes that could send the world into oblivion.

Thankfully, Armageddon did not begin that night. But the episode did give Americans a taste of how insane the Trump administration would be on a near-nightly basis. Looking back, though, everything about it becomes stranger and more tragic. There is the reality that three of the men at the table have been charged by the federal government: Flynn for making false statements to the FBI, Bannon for a bunch of stuff, and Trump also for a bunch of stuff — including using Mar-a-Lago bathrooms as a sort of dumping ground for top-secret information after his presidency. (Perhaps we should have seen that coming given this event.) There is the fact that this was one of Shinzo Abe’s last visits to the United States before he was killed by a home-made-blunderbuss-wielding assassin.

Perhaps the strangest thing about all this is Trump’s ever-evolving relationship with Kim Jong Un. After early back-and-forths that devolved into “fire and fury” threats, Trump met with Kim in 2018 and reported that they “fell in love.” Some of their letters were even reportedly among the presidential documents seized from Mar-a-Lago in the federal raid in 2022. And now, Trump says a second term is the only thing that stands between the world and the prospect of nuclear destruction. That’s not an exciting prospect, except maybe to Mar-a-Lago diners.

Source link

Related Articles

Back to top button