Trump meets foreign policy team in Washington

Reuters News
Posted: Mar 31, 2016 9:16 AM

By Steve Holland

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump took a detour off the campaign trail on Thursday, visiting Washington for talks with his foreign policy team after a series of national security statements that have drawn criticism.

The meeting was hosted by his top backer in the capital, U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama, who chairs Trump's foreign policy team. Trump was last in Washington on March 21 for talks with Republican lawmakers in a meeting that also was hosted by Sessions.

"The meeting is taking place today in Washington," said Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, without offering details.

Trump's meeting comes after he made a series of controversial statements about foreign policy in recent days that have raised concerns among Republican national security experts about where he would take the country if elected president on Nov. 8.

In recent interviews, Trump has declared NATO obsolete, said Saudi Arabia is too dependent on the United States and said Japan and South Korea may need to develop their own nuclear programs because the U.S. security umbrella is too costly to maintain.

In an MSNBC town hall on Wednesday night, Trump did not rule out the potential use of nuclear weapons in Europe or the Middle East to combat Islamic State militants. "I would never take any of my cards off the table," he said.

Max Boot, a conservative national security expert and member of the Council on Foreign Relations, wrote in Commentary Magazine this week that Trump is "singularly unqualified to be commander-in-chief."

"With Trump in command, our enemies would have a field day — Moscow and Beijing must be licking their chops at his desire to abandon U.S. allies in Europe and Asia — and our friends would face mortal threats. If that isn’t the single biggest threat to U.S. security, I don’t know what is," Boot wrote.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told an event hosted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce that some of the rhetoric used by Republican Party candidates was “scaring a few people in the establishment and in political power structures."

But Trudeau said ultimately he had “great faith in the American people” to choose a new leader. He said he expected that the 2016 U.S. presidential election would lead to important lessons about the underlying causes of the current polarization.

Canada would work with whomever was elected as the next U.S. president, Trudeau said, noting that the ties between the two countries were strong and continuing to get stronger.

(Additional reporting by Doina Chiacu; Editing by Bill Trott and Jonathan Oatis)