President Donald Trump announced Thursday that he is canceling a planned trip to Poland and will remain in the United States to monitor Hurricane Dorian, which is headed toward a potential landfall in Florida or elsewhere along the East Coast by early next week.
The president had been set to travel to Poland this weekend to participate in a World War II commemoration ceremony. Vice President Mike Pence will make the trip instead, Trump said.
“To ensure that all resources of the federal government are focused on the arriving storm, I have decided to send our vice president, Mike Pence, to Poland this weekend in my place,” Trump said in the Rose Garden of the White House during an event focused on the new space command. “It’s something very important for me to be here. The storm looks like it could be a very, very big one indeed.”
The official National Hurricane Forecast predicts Dorian will reach Category 4 strength while approaching the eastern coast of Florida on Monday night.
The president, who returned from the G-7 summit in France earlier this week, never appeared to be enthusiastic about the second overseas trip and had already shortened it twice. He abruptly called off the second half of the planned trip, to Denmark, earlier this month.
Then he seemed prepared to pare back the Poland trip too, skipping a planned visit to a Polish military base where U.S. forces serve alongside Polish forces, a U.S. defense official said before Trump’s announcement Thursday.
White House officials had begun discussing the cancellation of the entire trip earlier this week, according to a person briefed on the discussions. And Trump has in recent daysrepeatedly lashed out at the media over the coverage of his G-7 trip.
“The G7 in France was so successful, and yet when I came back and read the Corrupt and Fake News, and watched numerous networks, it was not even recognizable from what actually took place at the Great G7 event!” he tweeted Tuesday.
Trump said Thursday that he had informed Polish President Andrzej Duda of the change in plans and had conveyed to him “my warmest wishes and the wishes of the American people.”
“Our highest priority is the safety and security of the people in the path of the hurricane, and I will be rescheduling my trip to Poland in the near future,” Trump said.
Earlier Thursday, Trump tweeted that Dorian “looks like it will be hitting Florida late Sunday night.”
“Be prepared and please follow State and Federal instructions, it will be a very big Hurricane, perhaps one of the biggest!” he said.
Trump owns several properties along Florida’s east coast, including his Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach and three golf courses in West Palm Beach, Jupiter and Doral, west of Miami.
In September 2017, Mar-a-Lago, along with the rest of Palm Beach island, was ordered to evacuate due to Hurricane Irma.
Pence, who is now going in Trump’s place, went to Poland in February.
Duda had most recently visited the White House in June, when Trump announced that the U.S. would be adding 1,000 troops to Poland and rolled out a lavish welcome for Duda that included an F-35 flyover that the two leaders and their lives viewed from the South Lawn.
Trump and Duda said in a joint statement during that visit that the United States would establish a small forward command headquarters for hundreds of American forces in Poland, as well as combat training centers throughout the central European country. In turn, Poland would pay for those facilities.
Trump has found a natural ally in Duda, the right-wing leader of Poland whom Trump has repeatedly praised, particularly as the nation meets its NATO defense spending obligations while other countries like Germany fall short. Trump said during Duda’s visit in June that he has a “very warm feeling for Poland” and Duda has pitched a permanent U.S. base in Poland, which the Polish leader said would be called “Fort Trump.”
(c) 2019, The Washington Post · Felicia Sonmez, Seung Min Kim