Skip to content

Trump Cancels Trip to Latin America, Citing Crisis in Syria

April 9, 2018

And in 2011, former President Barack Obama went ahead with a trip to Brazil while American forces were striking Libya.

On Monday, the president promised a quick response to Syria and met with his military leaders to consider options. He opened the meeting venting his outrage at the targeting of his lawyer, musing aloud about the prospect of firing the special counsel in the Russia investigation, Robert S. Mueller III.

The tirade, which included lashing out at the F.B.I. and the Justice Department, raised the prospect for a consequential confrontation between the president and top United States law enforcement officials.

In her statement on Tuesday, Ms. Sanders said Mr. Trump had asked that Vice President Mike Pence attend the meeting of the leaders of countries in the Western Hemisphere in his place. Mr. Pence was honored to go, the vice president’s office said in a separate statement.

The decision appeared to have taken even some senior White House officials by surprise. Mr. Trump’s top economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, was not aware of the president’s new plans when he told a conservative radio host on Tuesday morning that he would be traveling with Mr. Trump to Latin America this week. He said Mr. Trump would be able to “compartmentalize.”

Newsletter Sign Up

Continue reading the main story

Thank you for subscribing.

An error has occurred. Please try again later.

You are already subscribed to this email.

View all New York Times newsletters.

There were plenty of reasons for Mr. Trump to dread the trip to South America, which promised to include considerable behind-the-scenes friction and little of the flattering pomp and ceremony that he relishes — and to which he was treated during visits to Saudi Arabia and China last year.

The president’s approval rating in Latin America is extraordinarily low, and leaders there have been insulted by his rhetoric against immigrants and alarmed by his threats to use military force in Venezuela. The White House had already scaled back the scope of Mr. Trump’s travels to the region, trimming what was initially planned as a five-day visit to one that involved fewer than three days on the ground for the president.

Mr. Trump had planned to use that brief time to seek consensus on how to handle the crisis in Venezuela and press his case for better trade deals with Latin American nations. The president’s advisers had played down expectations for major advances during the trip, including saying it was unlikely to produce any breakthroughs on the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement.

They had left open the question of whether Mr. Trump would meet with President Enrique Peña Nieto of Mexico, with whom he has had a stormy relationship. The two have clashed over the phone over Mr. Trump’s promises to build a border wall and force Mexico to pay for it, and the latest such altercation led them to cancel a tentatively planned visit by Mr. Peña Nieto to the White House in March.

More recently, Mr. Peña Nieto has taken umbrage at Mr. Trump’s decision last week to send National Guard troops to patrol the southern border.

Last week, Mr. Trump said he was eager to withdraw United States forces from Syria, where they are fighting the Islamic State. But, under pressure from military commanders who implored him not to beat a hasty retreat, he later said he would keep the 2,000 American troops in Syria, while ordering the military to wrap up the four-year operation within a few months.

On Monday, Mr. Trump said his national security team was weighing options for an American response to the suspected chemical attack in Syria, which the president has called a “barbaric act,” warning in Twitter posts that there would be a “big price to pay.” But at a meeting with his military commanders at the White House, Mr. Trump reserved his harshest words for the F.B.I. and top Justice Department officials, railing against the raids in which he said agents “broke into” Mr. Cohen’s office.