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Trump Cancels Trip To Latin America


President Trump has abruptly canceled plans to attend a summit meeting in South America this weekend. The White House says that Vice President Pence will go instead. The announcement came this morning amid news of mounting legal trouble in the president's inner circle. Just yesterday, investigators searched the office of the president's longtime personal lawyer, Michael Cohen. The president, of course, has also been discussing a possible military response to a chemical attack - an apparent chemical attack in Syria. NPR's Scott Horsley has covered the White House for years. He's with us once again.

Good morning, Scott.

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: Good to be with you, Steve.

INSKEEP: So what is the reason the president would cancel this trip?

HORSLEY: The ostensible reason has to do with the developments in Syria, where the president met last evening with his military team to talk about how to respond to that suspected chemical weapons attack. The announcement came from White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders just after 9 a.m. She said, the president will not be going to the eighth Summit of the Americas in Lima, nor will he make a side trip that he was expected to to Bogota, Colombia, and that Vice President Pence will go in his place.

INSKEEP: You said the ostensible reason. What other reason could there be?

HORSLEY: Well, as you mentioned, we have this - the legal troubles within the president's immediate inner circle. There, of course, are also trade developments going on around the world. The statement from Sarah Sanders says that the president will remain in the U.S. to oversee the American response to Syria and monitor developments around the world. He wasn't expected to travel to Lima until Friday, so whatever he's going to do in Syria, presumably, he'll do before that. He's talked about making a decision in the next 24 hours or so. You know, I remember that President Obama was in the midst of a South America trip when U.S. forces conducted military exercises in Libya. So certainly, whatever he's going to do in Syria would not directly preclude him from making this Latin America trip.

INSKEEP: Oh, because communications are so solid for the president of the United States that he can be anywhere and do whatever he needs to do.

HORSLEY: Exactly.

INSKEEP: OK. Well, that does then raise a question of how much trouble the president's inner circle thinks he is in or that his people close to him are in after this FBI raid on Michael Cohen's office. And we should stress, we don't know exactly what the FBI was going after, but we know that there was a search warrant executed and that someone at the FBI, and the U.S. attorney's office in New York was able to convince a magistrate to allow the president's own lawyer to be raided in this way.

HORSLEY: That certainly could be part of the explanation. We know the president was angry about that. He vented a bit in front of reporters yesterday. It's also worth noting, this Latin America trip was going to be an uncomfortable trip for President Trump. His own standing in the hemisphere is very low. He has an approval rating of only 16 percent in most of Latin America. Just in recent days, he's threatened to cut off aid to Honduras to stem the tide of illegal immigrants from that country. There's his move to put National Guard troops on the border, which has exacerbated tensions with Mexico.

He was supposed to give a sales pitch to make America the No. 1 trading partner for the rest of the hemisphere and kind of push back against China's economic activities in the hemisphere. That was not a push that was going to be very popular at a time when he's been, you know, pulling out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a big Pacific trade deal, and forcing a renegotiation of NAFTA. So it was going to be an uncomfortable trip for the president, and it's going to be now an uncomfortable trip for Vice President Pence.

INSKEEP: Scott...

HORSLEY: ...Going in Trump's place.

INSKEEP: Scott, very briefly - you said the president vented a bit. Are you being a little generous there? Because that was quite a long statement the president made last evening.

HORSLEY: It was, while surrounded by uniformed military men.

INSKEEP: NPR's Scott Horsley at the White House. Thanks very much.

HORSLEY: You're welcome.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Steve Inskeep is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.
Scott Horsley is NPR's Chief Economics Correspondent. He reports on ups and downs in the national economy as well as fault lines between booming and busting communities.