The president isnt big on foreign travel, but hell have his needs accommodated on the nine-day jaunt, including his beloved steak with a side of ketchup
When Donald Trump sits down for dinner in Saudi Arabia, caterers have ensured that his favorite meal steak with a side of ketchup will be offered alongside the traditional local cuisine.
At Nato and the Group of 7 summits, foreign delegations have got word that the new US president prefers short presentations and lots of visual aids. And at all of Trumps five stops on his first overseas trip, his team has spent weeks trying to build daily downtime into his otherwise jam-packed schedule.
Its all part of a worldwide effort to accommodate Americas homebody president on a voyage with increasingly raised stakes given the ballooning controversy involving his campaigns possible ties to Russia. For a former international businessman, Trump simply doesnt have an affinity for much international.
Even before Trumps trip morphed from a quick jaunt to Europe into a nine-day behemoth, White House aides were on edge about how the president would take to the grueling pressures of foreign travel: the time zone changes, the unfamiliar hotels, the local delicacies. Two officials said they feared that a difficult trip might even lead the president to hand off future traveling duties to Mike Pence.
The president spoke to Pence just before taking the Marine One helicopter from the White House south lawn ahead of boarding Air Force One with the first lady, Melania, on Friday afternoon at Joint Base Andrews.
Trumps itinerary hardly eases him into the delicate world of international diplomacy on foreign soil.
After his overnight flight on Air Force One on Friday, Trump will hop from Saudi Arabia to Israel to the Vatican. Hell close his trip with a pair of summits in Brussels and Sicily, often staid affairs that require leaders to be locked in lengthy plenary sessions.
The chance of something going wrong you insult the hosts, you get sick, your boss gets sick, you miscommunicate with your hosts, you make a scheduling error, you need to change the schedule just hours before a meeting, the motorcade get stuck in traffic, or the plane is stranded due to bad weather is extremely high, said Julianne Smith, who served as a foreign policy adviser to the former vice-president Joe Biden and is now a senior fellow at the Center for New American Security.
Personally, I think they should cut it back now before they regret it, she said of Trumps long jaunt.
The trip marks the first time since taking office that Trump has spent a night away from the White House at a property that doesnt bear his name. And its not just the bragging rights Trump gets when he goes to his own properties: staffers know his meal preferences and the exact temperature he likes a room set at. Hes often surrounded by long-time friends and acquaintances who have memberships to the commander in chief-owned retreats.
The only overnight trip Trump took abroad as a candidate was to mark the opening of a new golf resort in Scotland. He led journalists on a roving tour of the course and said his property would benefit if Britains currency tanked following its decision to leave the European Union. He also made a day trip to Mexico.
The stakes will be far higher as Trump makes his debut on the international stage. Hes the first president since Jimmy Carter not to travel abroad during his first 100 days in office. And hell depart under a cloud of controversy, much of it of his own making, including the White Houses botched handling of FBI director James Comeys firing.
Nearly all of Trumps senior White House officials are traveling with him. The first lady, Melania Trump, will also be on the trip, headlining her own events on each stop.
The Slovenian-born first lady is a rather more seasoned international traveler than her husband. She lived and worked as a model in Paris and Milan before moving to New York, and speaks several languages.
Before the couple married, they flew to Slovenia so the New York real estate mogul could meet his bride-to-bes family. The day trip marked the only time Trump has set foot in his wifes home country.
At least I can say that I went, Trump told the New York Times last year.
Foreign travel has never been high on Trumps list of priorities. During his first marriage, he usually stayed behind when his wife, Ivana, took his children for visits to her home country, the former Czechoslovakia. Hes made the occasional stops to meet business partners abroad, but most of his travel has been to his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida, and other US properties.
Trumps hosts on his upcoming trip are well aware of his aversion to travel and are trying to make accommodations to keep him happy.
In Saudi Arabia, people with knowledge of the planning for Trumps trip say the caterers are planning to offer the president steak and ketchup alongside the lamb and hefty portions of rice on the menu. All the meat will have been butchered in a halal manner as per Islamic custom.
The people with knowledge of the Saudis planning insisted on anonymity because they were not authorized to disclose the sensitive details.