Trump hoping for media hype around Putin meeting to match North Korea summit
The Associated Press, Updated:
A face-to-face sitdown with a long-feared foe. Endless media hype. Huge ratings.
Although President Donald Trump has met with Russia’s Vladimir Putin twice before, he is eager to recreate in Finland the heady experience that he had last month with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore: a summit that became a mass media event complete with powerful presidential images. Ever the showman and insistent on establishing closer ties to Moscow, Trump overruled his advisers and demanded the rituals and pageantry of a formal summit.
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Trump had boasted to confidants about the number of cameras in Singapore, claiming it dwarfed coverage of the Oscars, according to a person familiar with his thinking but not authorized to discuss private conversations and so spoke on condition of anonymity. Though Trump originally expressed concern that Helsinki was not glamorous enough and favored hosting Putin at the White House, the president was reassured by aides that it would be an effective backdrop. And long believing in the power of personal connections, he has insisted to aides that it was essential to sit down with Putin to establish a rapport.
“He’s been very nice to me the times I’ve met him. I’ve been nice to him. He’s a competitor,” Trump said of Putin last week in Brussels. “You know, somebody was saying, ‘Is he an enemy?’ No, he’s not my enemy. ‘Is he a friend?’ No, I don’t know him well enough.”
Drawing on his experience as a marketer and salesman, Trump has long been convinced that his mastery of powerful images has been essential to his political rise. The president has told advisers that the Singapore diplomacy made him look like a take-charge president. And it was not lost on him that his poll numbers received a temporary bump after the meeting.
With the same attention to detail that he devoted to campaign ads, Trump masterminded many of the looks for his meeting with Kim, including the two leaders’ dramatic initial greeting and handshake and, later, their one-on-one time. At one point, he startled the Secret Service by giving Kim an impromptu tour of some mighty American machinery — the presidential limousine known as “The Beast.”