BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — President Donald Trump is more than 5,000 miles from Washington, but Robert Mueller is very much still on his mind.
Even as he was preparing for a full day of meetings with world leaders during the G-20 summit here, the president couldn’t seem to shake his fury over the Mueller probe, which on Thursday ensnared his former lawyer Michael Cohen who pleaded guilty to lying about the extent to which he and Trump discussed a Moscow-based real estate deal during the 2016 presidential campaign.
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Aides described Trump as fixated on the Cohen news, with one adding that he was fuming about it on the lengthy Air Force One flight to Argentina. On Thursday night, the president, who regularly binges on Fox News during flights, tweeted out excerpts from the cable network’s outraged coverage of the Mueller developments.
And on Friday morning, as his motorcade idled outside the posh hotel in which he is staying, Trump unleashed on Twitter, casting himself as a victim of an out-of-control special counsel even as he appeared to acknowledge that he was at one point mulling the proposed Moscow “Trump Tower.”
“Oh, I get it! I am a very good developer, happily living my life, when I see our Country going in the wrong direction (to put it mildly). Against all odd, I decide to run for President & continue to run my business-very legal & very cool, talked about it on the campaign trail,” Trump wrote on Twitter, adding in a second tweet, “lightly looked at doing a building somewhere in Russia. Put up zero money, zero guarantees and didn’t do the project. Witch Hunt!”
Trump’s anger over the Mueller investigation — and his compulsion to publicly declare his innocence — threatens to overshadow the Argentina trip, which will feature several important policy-related events, including a Friday morning signing of a new trade deal between the United States, Canada and Mexico. Trump called the moment “a truly groundbreaking achievement.”
The signing was branded with Trump-centric trappings — the three countries’ leaders stood behind matching lecterns with the U.S. presidential seal on them. But Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau refused to give Trump a uniformly triumphant ceremony.
Trudeau refused to call the deal by Trump’s desired name, the U.S.-Mexico-Canada agreement. Instead, he referred to it as the “new North American Free Trade Agreement” — the long-standing name for the trilateral trade deal — and explained that he signed the agreement because it “lifts the risk of serious economic uncertainty that lingers throughout a trade renegotiation process.”
And while Trump said he and Trudeau had bonded during the “battle” of negotiations — “battles sometimes make great friendships,” he remarked — Trudeau used the event to press Trump on steel and aluminum tariffs.
“Make no mistake, we will stand up for our workers and fight for their families and their communities,” he said.
Trump has often expressed frustration with the rigors of participating in international summits, which are jam packed with meet-and-greets, photo-ops and meetings. Though he has multiple bilateral meetings with world leaders on his schedule, the White House announced Thursday that it is downgrading bilateral huddles with the leaders of Turkey and South Korea to more informal pull-asides.
Even as Trump downplayed his interest in the Russian real estate project, he couldn’t help but mention his prior business relationship with another foreign businessman.
During a Friday photo-op with Argentine President Mauricio Macri, Trump noted that he used to do business with Macri’s father.
“I actually did business with his family,” Trump said.