President Trump departs on first official trip overseas

World Today

Donald Trump,Melania TrumpPresident Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump, wave as they board Air Force One at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., Friday, May 19, 2017. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Donald Trump left Friday on his first foreign trip as U.S. President. The White House says Trump wants to use the trip to expand his America First agenda into a series of partnerships to fight terrorism and create more global trade. But the shadow of the Russia scandal, and his own nationalist positions on issues like climate change and NATO threaten to block his agenda.

Jessica Stone gave us this report on what’s ahead for President Trump’s first official trip overseas.

Trump departs on first foreign trip

Donald Trump leaves Friday on his first foreign trip as U.S. President. But the shadow of the Russia scandal, and his own nationalist positions on issues like climate change and NATO threaten to block his agenda.

It’s an ambitious nine-day trip. Saudi Arabia, Israel, a meeting with the Pope, and attending his first global meetings with the NATO Summit and the Group of Seven (G7) forum. U.S. President Donald Trump’s foreign policy advisors have cast the trip as a way to turn the page from his nationalist campaign to global governing.

“America First didn’t mean America not leading. So for America to secure and advance its interests, that requires American leadership, ” said H.R. McMaster, National Security Advisor, “And so the President’s leadership has been welcomed in all the places that he’ll be visiting on this trip.”

In Saudi Arabia, Trump will meet with the Gulf Cooperation Council and convene a group of more than 50 Muslim leaders to fight terrorism.

According to a senior administration official, the Saudis will agree to host an anti-radicalization center and create a NATO-like alliance of Arab nations committed by treaty to each other’s security.

The White House will also ask the Muslim leaders to sign a pledge to bar funding to extremist organizations. Experts warn getting an agreement across sectarian lines will be a tall order.

“The Sunni powers like Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states, and Israel are at least as focused on the terrorism emanating from Hezbollah which is a proxy for the Iranians.” said Stewart Patrick of the Council on Foreign Relations.

After stops in Jerusalem and Rome, Trump will join 27 other Western leaders in Belgium for the NATO summit. Organizers are reportedly preparing to simplify the conversation to compensate for Trump’s relative foreign policy inexperience. Trump, who once called NATO “obsolete” before reversing himself, has pushed partners to increase funding. And, according to a senior administration official, Trump is willing to leave the 68-year-old alliance if that doesn’t happen.

That’s not the only bombshell being prepared for America’s international partners. A White House official confirms to CGTN that the Trump administration has determined the historic Paris climate agreement is not legally binding. Trump is considering changing U.S. emissions reduction targets to protect American industry.

Newly sworn-in French President Emmanuel Macron used his congratulatory call from Trump to pressure him not to abandon the climate change accord.

Trump will end his trip in Sicily and the G7 summit, where his stance on climate change and support for trade protections clashes with the other members.

CGTN has learned Trump is questioning whether the G7 can be productive without including both China and Russia. But it’s Trump’s relationship with Russia that’s expected to dominate his private conversations.

The FBI and several congressional committees are probing Trump staff’s alleged connections to the Kremlin. One day before leaving on his trip, Trump said he considers the investigation a distraction.

“I hate to see things that divide,” Trump told a joint press conference with Colombian President Manuel Santos. “I’m fine with whatever people want to do, but we have to get back to running this country, really, really well.”

One White House official says Trump’s two top foreign policy objectives are: spreading peace and increasing global trade. Steps can be taken on both during this trip if the U.S. president can keep further domestic distractions at bay.