A look at who’s off to Asia with Trump, who’s staying behind
HONOLULU (AP) — President Donald Trump is off to Asia, where he’ll visit Japan, South Korea, China, Vietnam and the Philippines. A look at some of those who will accompany him on the 12-day trip, the longest by any U.S. president to Asia since George H.W. Bush in late 1991 and early 1992.
First lady Melania Trump
The first lady has taken a more visible role in the White House lately, and has been a frequent presence at the president’s side during the pomp and ceremony on previous foreign trips. During the first one, which took Trump to the Middle East and Europe, she drew attention for appearing to swat away the president’s hand and for laughing when Pope Francis joked about a sweet treat from her homeland of Slovenia. She is expected to leave the trip after they stop in China.
National security adviser H.R. McMaster
McMaster, the target of a far-right attack campaign over the summer, has been instrumental in organizing the trip. A three-star general, McMaster has declared that “there is a military option” that could be used against the nuclear threat posed by North Korea.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson
Tillerson has come under withering criticism from Trump in recent weeks and has had to fend off rumors that his time as secretary of state is short. Trump has upbraided Tillerson, former CEO of Exxon Mobil Corp., for advocating a diplomatic solution to the North Korea crisis. Trump took to Twitter to say, “Save your energy, Rex.” And Tillerson has had to deny he reportedly called Trump “a moron” after a July briefing at the Pentagon about American interests overseas.
White House chief of staff John Kelly
The retired four-star Marine general, who has tried to better organize the White House and streamline the flow of information to the president, took a rare recent turn in the public eye when he defended Trump’s outreach to the grieving families of slain soldiers. Kelly went on the attack against a Democratic congresswoman who criticized the tone of one of Trump’s condolence calls.
White House senior aide Jared Kushner
Kushner is expected to take on a less prominent role on this foreign trip than on the president’s first one in May. His wife, Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter, spoke at a women’s entrepreneurship event in Tokyo on Friday but scrapped plans to travel with her father in Asia so she can help sell his tax plan back home. Kushner, who helped organize Chinese President Xi Jinping’s April visit to Mar-a-Lago in Florida, has been dogged by questions about his contacts with Russians. He remains a leading voice in the administration’s China policy. He will leave the trip after Beijing.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders
This will be Sanders’ first foreign trip as press secretary. She was deputy to Sean Spicer during the president’s previous trips. She is the public face of the administration, frequently pushing back against in reporters in at-times contentious White House press briefings.
White House senior adviser Stephen Miller
Considered one of the few remaining hard-line nationalists in the White House, Miller has become one of the president’s most trusted aides and a regular speechwriter. The White House has not confirmed how much of a role Miller will play in drafting the two major speeches planned for the trip: one to the Korean National Assembly in Seoul, the other to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Da Nang, Vietnam.
Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer
Ross, the commerce secretary, and Lighthizer, the U.S. trade representative, will be at the forefront over trade negotiations with Japan, South Korea and China. Trump had signaled unhappiness with existing trade deals, believing they are unfair to American workers. Ross — the richest member of the Cabinet with worth estimated at $2.5 billion — is traveling separately from the president.
Who’s not going:
Vice President Mike Pence
For security purposes, it is exceedingly rare for a president and vice president to both travel overseas at the same time. Pence, who made his own trip to Asia earlier this year, is set to remain in Washington.
Defense Secretary James Mattis
Mattis, who holds outsized influence in the administration, just returned from his own trip to Asia. The retired Marine Corp general has publicly endorsed finding a diplomatic solution to the crisis in North Korea but has pledged that the Pentagon would be ready for any outcome.
Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and Gary Cohn, director of the National Economic Council
Both men are staying behind in Washington to promote the Republican tax overhaul plan. Republicans on Capitol Hill have expressed concern that failure to adopt the measure could spell doom for the GOP at the ballot box in next year’s elections. This week, Trump made clear that he wanted to see progress on the plan while away.