A number of foreign leaders have visited the White House in recent weeks with little fanfare, but President Donald Trump’s aides are setting big expectations for Tuesday’s visit by the “Trump of the Tropics.”
Yet, on what White House officials hope will be a paradigm-shifting day, Trump and his team got an early start on stepping on their own intended message about “fundamentally” overhauling relations with South America’s largest economy.
Trump and campaign manager Brad Parscale took aim at George Conway, husband of White House counselor Kellyanne Conway, who used a weekend tweet to question the mental stability of the president.
“A total loser!” Trump tweeted Tuesday morning, about four hours before new Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro is slated to arrive outside the West Wing lobby.
That came the morning after Parscale issued a broadside against George Conway with his own tweet, alleging Trump “turned down Mr. Kellyanne Conway for a job he desperately wanted.”
“He barely worked @TheJusticeDept and was either fired/quit, didn’t want the scrutiny? Now he hurts his wife because he is jealous of her success. POTUS doesn’t even know him!” Parscale tweeted about 10 hours before his boss signaled his agreement.
A total loser! https://t.co/vm3Vv2f9jf— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 19, 2019
What’s more, the White House scheduled briefing calls with other senior officials about an economic report and the administration’s efforts to combat opioid addiction rather than clearing the messaging deck for the Brazilian leader’s visit.
Then again, perhaps Trump’s Conway tweet was aimed at planting a seed with the White House press corps to ask him about his counselor’s husband when he and Bolsonaro take questions in the Rose Garden at 1:45 p.m.
“We’re very much looking forward to the visit of President Bolsonaro is Brazil. This is a potentially historic opportunity to redirect relations between our two countries, the two largest democracies in the Western Hemisphere,” National Security Adviser John Bolton told reporters outside the White House on Tuesday morning. “I think it will have a profound impact not just in this hemisphere, but really around the world.”
A senior administration official said Trump has “closely” watched the ascent of Bolsonaro and said their budding relationship is at “the core” of what the White House hopes will become a “North-south axis.”
“Clearly, we have seen, since day one, President Bolsonaro’s election as a real opportunity to fundamentally remake our relationship with Brazil,” the senior official told reporters on a conference call Monday.
Before the president drove the Tuesday news narrative by lashing out at his counselor’s husband, the senior official promised Bolsonaro’s visit would show “really, a full gamut in regards to the economic relationship between the United States and Brazil.”
But even with yet another stepped-on message, the White House is setting extraordinarily high expectations for the visit.
“In his election, he broke all of what I would say were the historic taboos of winning an election in Latin America. He was unabashedly — and particularly in Brazil — unabashedly pro-American,” the senior administration official said of Bolsonaro — he didn’t have to remind reporters that Trump broke taboos of American politics in the 2016 campaign and continues to do so.
“He ran on the campaign that he wanted to be the best friend to the United States, that he wanted to have this close relationship with President Trump and what that would mean for Brazil, what that would mean for the region and the world,” the official said. “He also ran on a very critical campaign in regards to Venezuela, in regards to Cuba, which broke those taboos that he run toward the left in Latin America. And he also was very critical of his concerns in regards to Chinese debt and investment in Brazil and in the region as a whole. So his ... election really broke a lot of those taboos.”
Underscoring just how big Tuesday is for Trump, his senior aide described the president’s hopes for his relationship with Bolsonaro by saying he hopes Brazil soon will be “one of the best allies of the United States — if not the best in the Western Hemisphere.”