In a touching nod to the presidents who came before him, President Donald Trump was reportedly obsessed with launching his own invasion of a Latin American country.
Unsurprisingly, the country is Venezuela—or, as it’s known to anyone who thinks single-payer healthcare is Stalinist, Whataboutvenezuela. Last August, Trump caused a stir by saying that he wouldn’t rule out a “military option” in the country, where there’s been significant political unrest during the government of Nicolás Maduro, and where the effects of an oil crisis have been exacerbated by the effect of sanctions by the U.S. In May, Maduro was controversially re-elected to a six-year term. (The opposition candidate who eventually finished as the runner-up was reportedly threatened with sanctions by the U.S. for running.)
It’s worth noting the history here: in 2002, Venezuela’s previous leader Hugo Chávez survived a coup, which was allegedly linked to the Bush administration, whose officials met with opposition leaders in the months leading up to the attempt. Chávez, who died of cancer in 2013, also repeatedly suggested that the U.S. was trying to assassinate him.
The “military option” comment was mostly waved off by the White House and the press as Trump being Trump. But the AP reports now that Trump was, in fact, very serious about this. Emphasis mine:
In an exchange that lasted around five minutes, McMaster and others took turns explaining to Trump how military action could backfire and risk losing hard-won support among Latin American governments to punish President Nicolas Maduro for taking Venezuela down the path of dictatorship, according to the official. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the discussions.
But Trump pushed back. Although he gave no indication he was about to order up military plans, he pointed to what he considered past cases of successful gunboat diplomacy in the region, according to the official, like the invasions of Panama and Grenada in the 1980s.
The idea, despite his aides’ best attempts to shoot it down, would nonetheless persist in the president’s head.
Remember: just last week, Mike Pence demanded in Brazil that countries in Central and South America “respect” America’s borders and sovereignty.
But wait, there’s more:
Then in September, on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly, Trump discussed it again, this time at greater length, in a private dinner with leaders from four Latin American allies that included Santos, the same three people said and Politico reported in February.
The U.S. official said Trump was specifically briefed not to raise the issue and told it wouldn’t play well, but the first thing the president said at the dinner was, “My staff told me not to say this.” Trump then went around asking each leader if they were sure they didn’t want a military solution, according to the official, who added that each leader told Trump in clear terms they were sure.
Eventually, McMaster would pull aside the president and walk him through the dangers of an invasion, the official said.
If it makes you feel any better, McMaster isn’t there anymore to talk him off the ledge. Instead, we have John fucking Bolton. Happy Fourth of July!