Following several high-intensity days for U.S. President Donald Trump, during which a chemical attack was launched in Syria and his former personal attorney’s office in New York was raided by the FBI, the White House today announced that the head of state has cancelled a planned trip to Latin America.
The focus of the trip, which would have been his first to Latin America since taking office, was to represent the United States at the Summit of the Americas conference, which will host leaders from the entire hemisphere in Lima, Peru.
Trump was also scheduled to make his first visit to Colombia following the event to discuss bilateral relations, drug-trafficking, and the ongoing crisis in Venezuela with Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos. That visit has also been canceled.
Trump skipping this Eighth Summit of the Americas will mark the first time a U.S. president has not attended since it was created in 1994, according to NBC News.
Photo: Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos meets with his U.S. counterpart last year during his first visit to the Trump White House. (Credit: White House)
Trump’s Busy Week
The White House cited the need to formulate a response to the chemical attack in Syria as the reason for canceling the trip. “President Trump will remain in the United States to oversee the American response to Syria and to monitor developments around the world,” said Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the presidential spokesperson, at a press briefing today.
Trump has consulted with U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May and is reportedly weighing what type of intervention might be necessary. “Both leaders condemned Syrian President Assad’s vicious disregard for human life and agreed not to allow the use of chemical weapons to continue,” said Sanders.
The president has also spent part of the past 24 hours reacting to an FBI raid on the office and home of his former lawyer, Michael Cohen, that had its roots in U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Trump’s presidential campaign. According to the New York Times, the law officers were searching for records related to alleged hush-money payments made to multiple women who claim to have had affairs with the president.
Reports, first from the New York Times followed by other media outlets, have also surfaced today that Trump seriously considered, for a second time, firing Mueller in December. In responding to those accounts, and whether Trump is even legally allowed to fire the special counsel, Sanders said today that “we’ve been advised that the president certainly has the power to make that decision.”
Pence to Attend Summit of the Americas
The White House representative added that Trump will send Mike Pence, vice president of the United States, in his place to represent the country at the Summit of the Americas and “meet with the Colombian president while he’s there in Peru.”
U.S./Colombian relations, which have been among the closest of any allies in the hemisphere for much of the past two decades, have grown more uncertain since Trump took office.
While previous administrations, and bilateral supporters in the U.S. Congress, had largely praised the Andean nation’s progress — while pledging vast sums of foreign aid intended to help in combatting armed groups, curbing drug production, and overall development — Trump has taken a more hostile stance.
During his first year in office, he repeatedly chastised the Colombian government for not doing enough to stop rising cocaine production, going so far as to threaten to decertify the country as a partner in the “war on drugs” and advocate for cuts to foreign aid.
Amid this environment, Pence will join Santos and other heads of state from Latin America and the Caribean at this eighth edition of the Summit of the Americas, which will take place in the Peruvian capital from April 13-14.
The event began in 1994 and was hosted by former U.S. President Bill Clinton in Miami. Subsequent versions have spanned the hemisphere once every three to four years in locations including Colombia (Cartagena), Canada (Quebec City), Argentina (Mar del Plata), and Trinidad and Tobago (Port of Spain).