Trump and Abe shut me­dia out for a bit of fair­ways diplo­macy

The Washington Post Sunday - - POLITICS & THE NATION - BY JOHN WAG­NER AND PHILIP RUCKER john.wag­ner@wash­ philip.rucker@wash­

JUPITER, Fla. — Pres­i­dent Trump and Ja­panese Prime Min­is­ter Shinzo Abe largely dis­ap­peared from pub­lic view for more than three hours here Satur­day at one of Trump’s sig­na­ture golf cour­ses for what was billed as fair­ways diplo­macy.

In a pic­ture the ad­min­is­tra­tion posted on so­cial me­dia, Trump, wear­ing a white Make Amer­ica Great Again hat, ap­peared to be high-fiv­ing Abe as the two lead­ers shared their pas­sion for golf. They were joined by Ernie Els, a pro golfer from South Africa.

The me­dia were largely kept away from the morn­ing out­ing at Trump Na­tional Golf Club, which was meant as one of sev­eral bond­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties dur­ing Abe’s visit this week­end to South Florida. Abe and his wife have been stay­ing at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago es­tate in nearby Palm Beach.

A me­dia pool trav­eled in Trump’s mo­tor­cade to the lux­u­ri­ous club, where an over­size Amer­i­can flag greets golfers en­ter­ing the club­house, but re­porters were not of­fered a glimpse of the two men. Af­ter Trump and Abe had en­tered, jour­nal­ists — in­clud­ing a Ja­panese con­tin­gent — were led to a base­ment suite where win­dows were cov­ered with black plas­tic so they couldn’t see out.

Trump and Abe trav­eled later Satur­day to a third Trump prop­erty in the re­gion, the Trump In­ter­na­tional Golf Club in West Palm Beach, where aides said they had lunch.

Both men and their wives dined to­gether back at Mar-a-Lago on Satur­day night and made a joint ap­pear­ance in front of a group of re­porters out­side the main en­trance. Trump said the visit was go­ing “very, very well” but ig­nored shouted ques­tions about a re­ported mis­sile launch by North Korea and whether he re­tains con­fi­dence in his na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser.

The White House’s de­ci­sion to keep the trav­el­ing press pool from see­ing Trump and Abe golf­ing to­gether was some­thing of a de­par­ture from past ad­min­is­tra­tions.

Although Barack Obama golfed sev­eral hun­dred times while serv­ing as pres­i­dent, his out­ings with dig­ni­taries were of­ten open to the press pool, so pho­tog­ra­phers and other jour­nal­ists could doc­u­ment the oc­ca­sion.

When Obama held a sim­i­lar sum­mit in 2013 with Chi­nese Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping at the Sun­ny­lands es­tate in Cal­i­for­nia, the me­dia were pro­vided sev­eral op­por­tu­ni­ties to see the two lead­ers in­ter­act­ing, in­clud­ing when they took a leisurely walk around the grounds of the es­tate.

CNN, from a dis­tant cam­era that was not part of the trav­el­ing press pool, was able to cap­ture some of the Abe-Trump meet­ing.

Trump, who has op­er­ated 17 golf cour­ses around the world, is said to be one of the best golfers in pres­i­den­tial his­tory. Abe is a lit­tle more mod­est about his abil­i­ties.

“My scores in golf is not up to the level of Don­ald at all,” Abe said in a joint news con­fer­ence the two lead­ers held Fri­day in Wash­ing­ton, ac­cord­ing to a trans­la­tor.

Speak­ing of their planned golf en­gage­ment, Abe added that “in a re­laxed at­mos­phere, I hope to take time to dis­cuss with Don­ald on the fu­ture of the world, fu­ture of the re­gion, and fu­ture of Ja­pan and the United States.”

Trump, mean­while, once told ra­dio network West­wood One Sports: “That’s the one thing about golf: You get to know some­body bet­ter on a golf course than you will over lunch.”

This is the sec­ond week­end in a row Trump has show­cased his golf clubs dur­ing a visit to Florida. Last week­end, he hosted a Su­per Bowl party at the West Palm Beach club.

When Trump and Abe headed to that prop­erty Satur­day af­ter­noon, the me­dia was di­verted to a li­brary across the street. Trump aides did not im­me­di­ately pro­vide in­for­ma­tion about what was tak­ing place.

Even be­fore this week­end’s visit, Abe had played on Trump’s fond­ness for the game to try to build their fledg­ling re­la­tion­ship. Dur­ing a visit to Trump Tower in New York be­fore Trump was sworn in, Abe pre­sented the pres­i­dent-elect with a $3,755 gold-col­ored driver.

Abe and Trump have been to­gether in South Florida since Fri­day af­ter­noon, when they flew down from Wash­ing­ton to­gether with their wives on Air Force One.

The two women toured the Morikami Mu­seum and Ja­panese Gar­dens, lo­cated just west of Del­ray Beach, on Satur­day morn­ing, as their hus­bands pre­pared to hit the links.


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