What Trump has said about each world leader at the G-20 summit
Each time world leaders gather for a Group of 20 summit, they pose for a photo op, lining up on stage in a show of collegiality.
The resulting image has come to be known as “the family photo.” And, well, family can be complicated.
At this year’s meeting in Osaka, Japan, President Trump was positioned in the front row, surrounded by counterparts he has alternately lauded and insulted. Here is some of what he’s said about them.
President Jair Bolsonaro
Inviting Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, the far-right “Trump of the Tropics” to the White House in March, Trump said he was “honored” to be a political model. Trump predicted the two would have a “fantastic working relationship,” while Bolsonaro flattered his host by using one of his stock phrases. “I’m very proud to hear the president use the term ‘fake news,’ ” Trump remarked.
President Emmanuel Macron
Visiting France earlier this month Trump called his relationship with French President Emmanuel Macron “really terrific,” but it’s a long way from what commentators had once called a “bromance.”
“President Macron of France has just suggested that Europe build its own military in order to protect itself from the U.S., China and Russia. Very insulting, but perhaps Europe should first pay its fair share of NATO, which the U.S. subsidizes greatly!” Trump tweeted in November.
President Abdel Fattah al-Sissi
Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sissi came to power in a violent 2013 military coup and has since overseen a harsh crackdown, jailing his critics by the tens of thousands and restricting press freedom. When Sissi visited the White House for the second time in April, Trump responded to questions about what human rights defenders have called a power grab by saying “I don’t know about the effort.”
“I can just tell you he’s doing a great job,” Trump said. “Great president.”
Egypt is not a member of the G-20, but Sissi attended the meeting in his capacity as African Union president.
President Joko Widodo
An Indonesian court dismissed a claim of vote-rigging and upheld the reelection of Indonesian President Joko Widodo, or Jokowi, as the president is commonly known, just before he left for the G-20 on Thursday. At their last meeting, in July 2017, Trump predicted that “we’re going to be doing a lot of deals together – trade deals.” He basked in Widodo’s insistence that “I can get into serious trouble if I don’t bring back some good news for your millions of fans in Indonesia.” Trump promised that he would visit.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan
Trump called Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan "a friend of mine" who is "getting very high marks" in September 2017 — a few months after Erdogan visited Washington and members of his security staff were filmed allegedly beating up protesters outside the Turkish Embassy. The White House declined to comment on the incident at the time. The relationship between Erdogan and Trump has since grown rockier. In January, Trump threatened to "devastate Turkey economically" if Turkey attacks Kurdish forces in Syria. Erdogan said that "saddened" him.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison
When Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s center-right government unexpectedly maintained power in a May election, it defied election polling and confounded pundits, drawing comparisons to Trump’s win in 2016.
“He didn't surprise me, but he surprised a lot of other people,” Trump said of Morrison when U.S. and Australian delegations dined together in Osaka on Thursday. “See, I knew him. See, I said you're going to do very well, and he did, he did that.” “They called it an upset, but I don't call it an upset,” he said. “I want to congratulate you very much. It was a fantastic thing.” Morrison’s critics have scrutinized his role in immigration policies that have sent migrants to offshore detention centers.
Prime Minister Theresa May
British Prime Minister Theresa May’s last encounter with Trump, during his state visit to Britain in early June, came as she prepared to step down as a casualty of the fractious and paralyzing effort to leave the European Union. Trump cheered Brexit and criticized May’s handling of it, but he had kind words for her during a news conference in London on June 4. “I would have sued, but that’s okay,” Trump said. “I would have sued and settled, maybe. But you never know. She’s probably a better negotiator than I am.”
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman
Weeks after Washington Post contributing columnist Jamal Khashoggi was killed inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul last October, Trump defended Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, saying in an interview with The Post that he is “a strong person; he has very good control.”
“He’s seen as a person who can keep things under check,” Trump said. “I mean that in a positive way.”
“He truly loves his country,” he said.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi
One day before Trump was set to meet Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi this week, he tweeted that new Indian tariffs on U.S. products are “unacceptable.” In January, Trump mocked Modi for “constantly” telling him about a library India funded in Afghanistan. “That's like five hours of what we spend,” Trump said. But he still praised Modi after his party won in a landslide election in May, tweeting that it was a “BIG election victory!” “Great things are in store for the US-India partnership with the return of PM Modi at the helm,” Trump tweeted. “I look forward to continuing our important work together!”
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe
Trump called Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe a “wonderful leader” after his red-carpet trip to Japan last month, complete with a sumo match. But he contradicted Abe in public over the severity of North Korea's recent short-range missile tests while in Japan. Before this trip to Japan, Trump complained to Fox Business that the defense pact between the two countries is unfair. The United States would fight “world War III” on Japan’s behalf, while Japan could sit back and watch on a “Sony television,” Trump said Wednesday.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau
When Trump met Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at the White House this month, he reinforced the importance of the U.S.-Canada relationship.
“Anything I can do to help Canada, I will be doing,” he said of raising the issue of two Canadians detained in China with Chinese President Xi Jinping.
But the year before, Trump tweeted from Air Force One on the way home from a Group of Seven meeting that Trudeau was “meek and mild” and “very dishonest & weak.”
Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc
Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc was the first Southeast Asian leader to visit the White House after Trump took office. And at a news conference in Hanoi in February, Trump said it was an “honor” to be with him. “And we’re now friends,” he said.
But this week, after criticizing Chinese trade policies, Trump said Vietnam is “the single worst abuser of everybody.”
“A lot of companies are moving to Vietnam, but Vietnam takes advantage of us even worse than China,” Trump said. “So there’s a very interesting situation going on there.”
Vietnam is not a member of the G-20, but Nguyen attended the meeting as a guest.
President Mauricio Macri
In an awkward moment during the G-20 summit last year, Trump stood on stage with Argentine President Mauricio Macri, then unexpectedly walked off, leaving Macri standing there alone for what was supposed to be a photo op as an aide scurried after Trump. Years ago, Trump was involved in a business deal with Macri’s father.
“I have been friends with Mauricio for a long time,” Trump said at last year’s summit. “People wouldn't know that he was a very young man, a very handsome man.” Last year, he also tweeted that Macri is “doing such a good job for Argentina.”
Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte
A soft-spoken law professor would seem an unlikely buddy for Trump, who gravitates to strongmen and big personalities, but Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte's nationalist, anti-establishment coalition gives the men common ground. “I probably, at least partially, won an election because of immigration,” Trump said last year, when Conte had only been in office for a matter of weeks. “Giuseppe, who I got to know quite well over the last month and a half, he won his election because of strong immigration policies on Italy.”
President Vladimir Putin
Few of Trump’s relationships have been scrutinized as much as his with Russian President Vladimir Putin. In a 2018 news conference with both men, Trump said the U.S.-Russia relationship “has never been worse than it is now.” “However, that changed as of about four hours ago,” he said, referring to his meeting with Putin. “I really believe that." Last year, Trump said he’s “got along very well” with Putin. “He’s not my enemy, and hopefully, someday, maybe he’ll be a friend,” he said. “It could happen.”
European Council President Donald Tusk
Trump has called the E.U. his biggest trade foe, leading the government bloc's president, Donald Tusk, to say last year that “with friends like that, who needs enemies.” Trump replied “I could reverse that.”
President Xi Jinping
This month, Trump called Chinese President Xi Jinping a “terrific president, a great leader of China,” even as he angrily accused Chinese negotiators of reneging on agreements toward a deal to avert new tariffs. Trump hailed the 2018 move to eliminate a two-term limit for the Chinese presidency, allowing Xi to serve indefinitely. “He’s now president for life, president for life. And he’s great,” CNN reported that Trump said during a closed-door fundraiser in Florida. “I think it’s great. Maybe we’ll have to give that a shot someday.”
President Moon Jae-in
Trump will visit South Korea at President Moon Jae-in’s invitation after he leaves Japan. Trump praised Moon when they met at the White House in April, saying Moon is doing “an excellent job” dealing with North Korea. “I consider him a great ally. And a lot of good things are happening,” Trump said, although he and Moon do not agree on how to proceed with stalled North Korea diplomacy.
President Cyril Ramaphosa
Trump rarely mentions Africa. But he faced widespread criticism last year when he tweeted a white-nationalist conspiracy theory, and said he had directed Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to look into “large scale killing” of white farmers in South Africa.
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa then told CNN that Trump was “ill-informed.” When Ramaphosa won a new term in a May presidential election this year, the White House sent a delegation to his inauguration.
Chancellor Angela Merkel
“Angela was a superstar until she allowed millions of people to come into Germany,” Trump said of German Chancellor Angela Merkel in a Fox News interview last year. “That really hurt her badly.” He has also lashed out over Germany’s NATO commitment and trade practices. “I have a great relationship with Angela Merkel of Germany, but the Fake News Media only shows the bad photos (implying anger) of negotiating an agreement - where I am asking for things that no other American President would ask for!” Trump tweeted last year after Germany released a photo of the two leaders appearing to argue.
About this story
Photo by Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images. Photo editing by Olivier Laurent. Claire Parker contributed to this report. Edited by Tamer El-Ghobashy. Design and development by Madison Walls, Matthew Callahan and Jason Bernert.