‘We can expect a more precocious overseas actor, probably willing to push harder along existing foreign policy lines…’
(Franco Ordonez and Michael Wilner, McClatchy Washington Bureau) The findings — or lack of findings — in the Robert Mueller report removes one of the major hurdles that has frustrated President Donald Trump’s foreign policy.
On the eve of a meeting between Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House Monday, the diplomatic community, including allies and adversaries, now must accept that Trump is likely to remain in power for the next two years.
That is welcome news for Israeli officials, who said Sunday that the report clears the air for the president’s meetings with Netanyahu. The Israeli leader — himself embattled with indictments at home he claims are similarly political — visits Washington just two weeks before a hard-fought election.
“It obviously lifts the cloud of prosecution off him for conspiracy or obstruction,” said Brian McKeon, who was a deputy undersecretary of defense under President Barack Obama. “It was never likely that Mueller would seek to charge a sitting president, based on DOJ guidance, but I suspect most foreign officials didn’t fully understand that.”
Sunday’s news drew a mix of reactions from diplomats around the world. While leaders in Israel were relieved, one British official expressed surprise that the report didn’t have more of an effect on Trump.
In Florida, Trump declared victory after calling the investigation the “most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard.”
“This was an illegal takedown that failed,” Trump said. “And hopefully, somebody is going to be looking at the other side. So it’s complete exoneration. No collusion. No obstruction.”
Wayne White, who was a senior State Department intelligence official for the Near East and South Asia under President George W. Bush, said foreign leaders must consider Trump’s re-election in 2020 as a much more serious possibility and adversaries should be forewarned of a stronger Trump.
“Consequently, they probably will be more receptive to improving relations (as in the case of NATO and European Union countries),” White said. “On Trump’s part, we can expect a more precocious overseas actor, probably willing to push harder along existing foreign policy lines: upping the pressure against Maduro and Iran, feeling freer to cozy up even more to overseas chums like Putin.”
Trump has complained that the Mueller investigation was a distraction when he met with world leaders. Foreign leaders have privately and publicly questioned whether the findings of the report would be damaging enough that Trump may not complete his term.
“Countries around the world are now more likely to accept that President Trump will be staying in power at least until the end of 2020 when the elections will take place,” said Fernando Cutz, who was senior adviser to National Security Advisor Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster under Trump. “And there seemed to be some uncertainty about that around the world, some anxiety about what was going to happen and whether impeachment was real or not. Now at least, that question seems to be settled and folks can start planning for the next year or so at least.”
Arab officials privately expressed relief at the news after several were implicated throughout two years of investigation over their own relations with the Trump family, including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. But additional federal inquiries into organizations related to Trump, including his inaugural committee, might keep Middle East governments on their toes.
Barr’s summary of the special counsel’s report doesn’t completely take away the cloud of suspicion. Democrats will continue to pore over details. They’ll seek the full report and continue holding hearings on other allegations of wrongdoing and potential criminal activity by the president or his campaign.
McKeon and others predict other charges brought against Trump allies or affiliates in New York.
Foreign governments will continue to follow every new subpoena, committee hearing and possible indictment.
“If the Barr summary is accurate, it certainly appears the president will complete his first term,” said Benjamin Gedan, who was National Security Council director for South America during the Obama administration. “That said, many governments will still attempt to wait him out unless his re-election seems assured.”
Some foreign leaders were already predicting his re-election before the Mueller report was complete.
“I do believe Donald Trump is going to be reelected, fully,” Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro said at the White House last week.
“I agree,” Trump replied.
©2019 McClatchy Washington Bureau. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.