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Trump sets off for Davos just as Senate impeachment trial heats up

President Donald Trump, who took off from Washington on Monday evening, is expected to be choppering into Davos, nestled in the Swiss Alps, to mingle with busin...
SWITZERLAND-DIPLOMACY-ECONOMY-POLITICS-DAVOS-SUMMIT

President Donald Trump, who took off from Washington on Monday evening, is expected to be choppering into Davos, nestled in the Swiss Alps, to mingle with business leaders and foreign officials on Tuesday just hours ahead of when the US Senate will begin his impeachment trial.

Trump, who missed the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting last year due to the government shutdown, is expected to deliver remarks at the forum on Tuesday morning before sitting down with business leaders and a slate of foreign counterparts, including the Iraqi and Swiss presidents. But impeachment will likely remain on his mind.

In the days before boarding Air Force One en route to Switzerland, Trump spent time at his Mar-a-Lago estate bitterly complaining in public and in private about the looming Senate trial that will determine whether he remains in office, though he’s widely expected to. As his lawyers prepared their case, Trump railed against the impeachment proceedings in conversations with friends and other guests at Mar-a-Lago. And on Twitter, he trashed Democrats’ push for witnesses to take the stand in the Senate trial.

But some of the President’s aides are hopeful that Trump’s Davos schedule will push Trump’s thoughts away from the televised trial in the Senate and off his Twitter account.

White House officials are also cautiously welcoming the two-day, split-screen moment that will show the President meeting with business leaders and foreign officials while the Senate takes up the House-passed articles of impeachment. The President and his aides have dismissed the charges as illegitimate despite testimony by numerous officials pointing to wrongdoing.

Trump is expected to focus his remarks at Davos on the booming US economy and administration policies that he says have made the US more hospitable to business and investment. But the President, who is known for going off-script, could also turn attention away from the economy and back onto the impeachment trial that will be underway in Washington.

The visit will be the latest in a string of foreign trips that have been at-times upstaged by political and legal developments aimed squarely at Trump — from major developments in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation to others in the impeachment proceedings.

Even without impeachment, Trump could face controversy at Davos, with the World Economic Forum choosing this year to focus the annual event on the climate crisis, which Trump has routinely dismissed despite overwhelming scientific evidence. And Greta Thunberg, the teenage climate activist whom Trump has mocked, is also scheduled to headline an event at Davos.

Trump’s meeting with Iraqi President Barham Salih will also refocus attention on Trump’s recent march to the brink of war with Iran and his decision to kill Qasem Soleimani, who headed Iran’s Quds Force. Members of Congress are continuing to probe whether Trump’s decision to launch that strike based on a questionable justification of an “imminent threat” was warranted.

Trump is expected to address the annual gathering of global leaders with a strong US economy at his back, one that has bolstered the global economy amid economic uncertainty in Europe and other parts of the world and helped enrich many of the billionaires and other businessmen attending the summit.

Business executives greeted Trump’s first visit to Davos in 2018 with concern and skepticism, unsure of how Trump’s protectionist trade policies and nationalist rhetoric would fare at a gathering known for cheering the benefits of globalism. But attendees left largely reassured when Trump focused on business investment in the US and largely stuck to a scripted speech prepared by two aides — including then-economic adviser Gary Cohn — who privately pushed Trump away from his protectionist instincts.

This year, Trump will arrive at Davos on the heels of a freshly minted “phase one” trade agreement with China, which has helped cool concerns that Trump’s ongoing trade war with China could mire the global economy.