Trudeau, Ivanka Trump and Come From Away

Daughter diplomacy: Trudeau’s unorthodox play for Donald Trump’s approval

Hanging out with Ivanka offers an in to a president who seems to value personal relationships over ideology — but whose brand is coming out ahead in this new friendship?

The cameras couldn't get enough of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Ivanka Trump at their first meeting in Washington on Feb. 13, 2017.
The cameras couldn’t get enough of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Ivanka Trump at their first meeting in Washington on Feb. 13, 2017.  (Evan Vucci / AP)  

WASHINGTON—A businesswoman whose lifestyle brand is struggling with liberals. A liberal-multilateralist prime minister who needs an in with a conservative-nationalist president.

Diplomacy is rooted in interests. And Ivanka Trump and Justin Trudeau both have an interest in hanging out with each other.

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The prime minister sat with the president’s daughter Wednesday night at the Broadway musical Come From Away, the Canadian show about the Newfoundland town that took in stranded Americans on Sept. 11, 2001. It was his second olive branch to her in just over a month.

Some U.S. news outlets suggested Trudeau had been sending a kind of passive-aggressive message: “Justin Trudeau brought Ivanka Trump to a Broadway show that celebrates generosity towards foreigners in need,” the New York Times tweeted to its 34 million followers. Whether or not that was true, he was also offering a kind of cashless donation to her company.

Trudeau joked of his “bromance” with former president Barack Obama. Shared youth and mutual interest in women’s issues notwithstanding, his new bilateral bestiehood appears much more a marriage of convenience.

“It is just so Game of Thrones‎,” said John Higginbotham, a former Canadian diplomat in Washington, referring to the television show in which warring family dynasties strike strategic alliances in ruthless pursuit of power.

Like Donald Trump before her, Ivanka Trump has made a brand out of her name. Her name has been tarnished, in the eyes of millions of progressive American consumers, by her father’s xenophobia and sexism. Who better to be seen with than the fashionable foreign progressive feminist who hugs refugees?

For Trudeau, daughter diplomacy offers the prospect of a lifeline to a president who shares almost none of his principles but who often appears to value personal relationships over ideology and policy — and who appreciates a political gift. Donald Trump has lavished praise upon chief executives who have let him take undeserved credit for their investments.

“It looks as if foreign leaders think the way to approach Trump is by direct or indirect appeals to his ego and personality, rather than in terms of national interests,” said Charles Stevenson, a former State Department policy planner who teaches foreign policy at Johns Hopkins University. “Business leaders have already discovered this, so they bring their announcements of job creation as if they had birthday presents for the king.”

Donald Trump, not Ivanka Trump, was Trudeau’s original invitee to the play, communications director Kate Purchase said. Trump told Trudeau he couldn’t make it, Purchase said, “but suggested that perhaps Ivanka Trump could join instead.”

“We were happy to arrange that,” she said.

“We’re friends and neighbours, partners and allies. We are committed to continuing to build on that relationship in a positive, constructive way. That means talking to U.S. senators, members of Congress, governors, Cabinet secretaries, business leaders, and importantly: the president and those close to him.”

Ivanka Trump has been portrayed in anonymously sourced stories as a powerful figure in the administration, a kind of de facto first lady. In February, Politico reported that she helped convince her father not to roll back protections for LGBT people. In March, Reuters reported that she was “a key advocate for the more measured, less combative tone” he adopted in his address to Congress.

Trudeau and Sophie Grégoire-Trudeau greet people after watching "Come From Away" in New York on Wednesday night.
Trudeau and Sophie Grégoire-Trudeau greet people after watching “Come From Away” in New York on Wednesday night.  (SAM HODGSON)  

But there is considerable skepticism in Washington that the leaks are anything other than self-serving public relations — and that Ivanka Trump has either the inclination or the ability to push her father toward moderation. The president has so far pursued a hard-right agenda that has betrayed few hints of liberal influence.

“Ivanka’s the only one of his children I think he listens to. But it’s just very, very small, and around the edges,” said Joshua Kendall, author of the book First Dads, about presidents as parents. “I think every once in a while he pays a little lip service to child-care, but I think those tiny inroads have led to sort of a feeding frenzy. Everyone says, ‘Maybe we can go much further than that.’ And I don’t think that’s going to happen.”

It is not only the president with whom Ivanka Trump might help Trudeau. Her husband, Jared Kushner, has emerged as one of the most powerful people in the country. As Donald Trump sidelines the professional diplomatic corps, Kushner, a 36-year-old with no government experience, has been shovelled responsibilities that range from soothing Mexico to striking Middle East peace.

Colin Robertson, a former Canadian diplomat, praised Trudeau for astute “realpolitik,” saying his rapport with Ivanka Trump serves Canadian interests. But the NDP has criticized his friendly posture toward a president whose policies foreign affairs critic Hélène Laverdière calls “racist.”

“Justin Trudeau took Ivanka Trump to an excellent Canadian play about kindness to strangers. It’s a play President Trump really should see. However, Trudeau continues to give Trump and his family political cover,” Laverdière said.

Trudeau’s early work with Ivanka Trump has paid at least superficial dividends. Trump boasted in his high-profile address to Congress of the new Canada-U.S. council on women in business; Trudeau was the only foreign leader he mentioned by name.

The council was an invention of Trudeau’s office designed specifically to include Ivanka Trump. She sat next to him at the inaugural meeting at the White House in February, cameras clicking away. Their Broadway appearance made new international headlines — some of the stories wrongly framing it as a quasi-date, omitting the presence of Trudeau’s wife Sophie Gregoire Trudeau.

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Kelly Knight Craft

Donald Trump chooses Republican fundraiser as ambassador to Canada, Bloomberg reports

Craft is a top Republican fundraiser in Kentucky, where she hosted a $5,400-per-couple event for Trump.

Kelly Knight Craft raised money for George W. Bush, Mitt Romney and Trump, hosting a $5,400-per-couple fundraiser for Trump in June and later serving as a finance vice-chair for his inaugural committee.
Kelly Knight Craft raised money for George W. Bush, Mitt Romney and Trump, hosting a $5,400-per-couple fundraiser for Trump in June and later serving as a finance vice-chair for his inaugural committee.  (Courtesy University of Kentucky)  

WASHINGTON—Kelly Knight Craft, a wealthy Republican fundraiser and campaign supporter of U.S. President Donald Trump, is poised to become the next United States ambassador to Canada – and the first woman to hold the post.

Bloomberg News reported Wednesday that Craft, a member of the U.S. delegation to the United Nations under George W. Bush, had accepted Trump’s offer of the position.

She is best known as one of the top Republican fundraisers in Kentucky. Craft has raised money for Bush, Mitt Romney and Trump, and hosted a $5,400-per-couple fundraiser for Trump in June. She later served as a finance vice-chair for his inaugural committee.

Craft, who is in her 50s, is the wife of Joe Craft, the billionaire chief executive of Alliance Resource Partners, a large Kentucky coal producer.

Bush chose her as a “public delegate” to the U.N. delegation in 2007, a short-term role often given to political donors. She is a member of the board of trustees of the University of Kentucky, her alma mater, and sits on the board of directors of the Salvation Army in Lexington.

Former Canadian diplomat Colin Robertson said the appointment – if confirmed – bodes well, showing that Trump picked not just a loyalist, “but somebody he thinks would suit Canada and suit (Prime Minister Justin) Trudeau.”

Indeed, Trump and Trudeau have launched a joint initiative to help female entrepreneurs and business leaders, something the president highlighted in his prime-time speech to Congress Tuesday.

Trudeau responded Wednesday to Trump’s shout-out, saying he was pleased with the efforts on this front. “It highlights one of the things we are very much in alignment on, the need to get more women into the workforce and have women get better jobs,” Trudeau said Wednesday when asked about Trump’s speech.

Robertson said that Craft’s time at the United Nations and her interest in Africa, all play well to Canadian priorities.

“This strikes me as quite a thoughtful appointment in terms of finding somebody who would fit well into Canada,” he said in an interview.

And he said Craft’s husband is also a good fit, with his expertise in business and energy.

“People say, ‘well, it’s coal.’ Look, it’s energy . . . He’s a businessman and the fact he knows the energy trade, I think that’s a good thing,” Robertson said.

Craft’s apparent selection puts to rest rumours about the possible selection of former Alaska governor Sarah Palin, the idiosyncratic right-wing firebrand.

Craft would have to be approved by the U.S. Senate, a process that is usually a mere formality but means the post will be vacant for some time yet.

The news came on the same day Finance Minister Bill Morneau and Transport Minister Marc Garneau visited Washington to meet with their U.S. counterparts and Environment Minister Catherine McKenna spoke by telephone with Scott Pruitt, administrator of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Morneau, making his third trip to Washington since Trump took office, held his first meeting with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. They talked about infrastructure and the “importance of tax reform,” including the proposal for a U.S.-imposed border tax that could hit Canadian imports, Morneau told reporters later.

“We didn’t go into any details on that as they don’t yet have details that they could communicate,” he said in a conference call.

Morneau said that without a firm proposal on the table, he did not voice Canada’s position to the tax.

“At this stage, without details, it’s not a time for us to express support, or opposition, or, even, insights, into the impact on the Canadian economy,” he said.

Craft has rarely made the news outside of brief Kentucky mentions of her fundraising work.

The Crafts met with Trump at his Trump Tower office in New York in the spring. They told Bloomberg that Trump’s promise not to try to oust House Speaker Paul Ryan or Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who is from Kentucky, was a key factor in their decision to back him.

In a rare news quote, Craft said she knew was putting her credibility at stake by collecting money for Trump.

“When someone gives us a cheque, we’re looking at that as they’re investing not only in that candidate . . . they’re investing in us, and I take that as a responsibility. I don’t take that lightly. We feel responsible to them,” she said.

The U.S. ambassadorship to Canada is regularly given to an ally of the president, often a wealthy fundraiser, rather than a career diplomat. Barack Obama’s last ambassador was former Goldman Sachs executive Bruce Heyman, who became a fixture on Ottawa’s social scene.

By tradition, Heyman left the diplomatic posting when Trump took office in January.

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Trudeau in Washington

Washington rolls out red carpet for Justin Trudeau

White House prepares to fete Prime Minister Justin Trudeau with Oval Office visit and state dinner, the first in almost two decades for a Canadian prime minister.

The two leaders had a formal meeting in November on at the APEC summit in Manila. It was a relaxed meeting and U.S. President Barack Obama spoke effusively about Justin Trudeau, praising the “incredible excitement” the prime minister stirred with his election campaign.

Susan Walsh / AP file photo

The two leaders had a formal meeting in November on at the APEC summit in Manila. It was a relaxed meeting and U.S. President Barack Obama spoke effusively about Justin Trudeau, praising the “incredible excitement” the prime minister stirred with his election campaign.

OTTAWA—Washington is preparing to roll out the red carpet for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and wife Sophie Grégoire Trudeau to fete a Canadian leader in a way that hasn’t been done for almost two decades.

Thursday’s state dinner at the White House — a chic and relatively rare event — promises to grab the spotlight when Trudeau visits with U.S. President Barack Obama.

But it’s the symbolism of the state dinner and the substance of Trudeau’s Oval Office meeting with Obama scheduled for earlier that day that together signal the president’s interest in making the visit a success, observers say.

“It’s really clear that the president has invested in this visit,” said Paul Frazer, a former Canadian ambassador who now works as a consultant in Washington.

“He wants this to be a success for the prime minister and for Canada-U.S. relations.”

Indeed, Trudeau’s first visit to the U.S. capital since winning office last fall is seen as a chance by both sides to repair the strained relations that marked the latter years of Stephen Harper’s time as prime minister.

In his short time as prime minister, Trudeau has created a buzz south of the border, appearing in a photo shoot with Vogue magazine, being declared as the “anti-Trump” by the Washington Post and doing a sit-down interview with 60 Minutes that aired Sunday night .

“There is a real curiosity in the best sense of the word,” Frazer said. “This is rare. It’s an opportunity.”

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The president and prime minister

Trudeau and Obama “click,” says former Canadian diplomat Colin Robertson.

The two leaders first met at the G20 meeting in November in Turkey and had a formal sit-down several days later on the sidelines of the APEC summit in Manila.

It was a relaxed meeting and Obama spoke effusively about Trudeau, praising the “incredible excitement” the prime minister stirred with his campaign and predicting he would bring “energy and reform” to Canada.

Both are family men, both rode a message of hope and change to electoral success. Trudeau, 44, is a decade younger than Obama. Robertson speculates that Obama feels a kinship with the new Canadian leader.

“I think he sees in Trudeau someone who was not unlike himself eight years ago before the hard realities of governing,” Robertson said.

The upbeat mood of the coming visit stands in stark contrast to the chilly ties under former Harper, when the Keystone XL pipeline came to dominate the relationship.

The White House’s refusal to approve the energy project to carry Alberta oilsands crude through the American Midwest came to overshadow the Canada-U.S. relationship, sparking a bitterness on Harper’s part that he could not mask.

Trudeau is trying to stay clear of the politics of the current presidential race, even the prospect that Donald Trump could be in the White House.

“We have to remember that ideology can’t drive our relationship. It has to be pragmatic, focused on the things where we do agree and making sure we are creating jobs and opportunities for Canadians,” he told Vancouver’s News 1130.————————

Policy: Climate change, trade and security

Those are issues are certain to top discussions when Trudeau and Obama meet.

With Trudeau’s government adopting climate change and the environment as a top priority, the Obama administration now feels it has a willing partner on the issue north of the border.

The two leaders will be keen to showcase their co-operation on the file — forged at the climate change conference in Paris last December — with the promise of joint action to keep momentum going.

Canada’s priorities have traditional centered on trade and border access while the U.S. remains focused on terror and security issues.

“Our ask is always to get goods and people across the border because especially with the American economy in recovery, that will do more for Trudeau’ electoral fortunes four years from now if our economy recovers,” former Canadian diplomat Colin Robertson said.

He says Washington is certain to push Canada on security issues, such as sharing information on travellers crossing the border.

Discussions are certain to extend beyond bilateral issues to touch on topics such as the joint efforts against Daesh, the group also known as ISIS and ISIL. Canada’s efforts to welcome Syrian refugees could come up, given the resistance south of the border to a similar move.

Insiders caution that the true measure of the meeting will about the tone of the conversation and resetting the relationship.

“There are obviously joint deliverables that we are talking about but there isn’t a wish list going into the meeting. It’s really about how do we repair the relationship at this point and move forward,” one senior government official told the Star.

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The Pomp: One dinner. Months of planning

On Thursday, Trudeau will join the ranks of other leaders, from Queen Elizabeth to Indira Gandhi to Mikhail Gorbachev who have been feted at a White House state dinner.

The invites are done in careful calligraphy. The centerpiece floral arrangements are overseen by the White House floral designer. The china settings selected — there are seven to choose from for a full state dinner.

The meal will run four or five courses and feature a personal touch to acknowledge the visiting leader.

In a town well-accustomed to the trappings of power and influence, these dinners still stand out. “They are not held very often so they are stand-out events from the usual receptions and other events that can take place at the White House,” said a historian with the White House Historical Association.

There will be members of Congress, cabinet members from both countries, the respective ambassadors — Bruce Heyman, the U.S. ambassador in Ottawa and David MacNaughton, Canada’s newly installed diplomat in Washington. There’s likely to be a sprinkling of celebrities.

The Canadian delegation gets 20 tickets. That delegation will include Foreign Affairs Minister Stéphane Dion; International Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland; Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan; Environment Minister Catherine McKenna and Hunter Tootoo, minister of fisheries, oceans and the Coast Guard.

Jean Chrétien was the last prime minister to enjoy a state dinner, then hosted by U.S. president Bill Clinton in 1997.

Trudeau’s father, Pierre Trudeau, was the guest of honour at three state dinners – in 1969, with President Richard Nixon as host; in 1974 with President Gerald Ford; and again in 1977 with President Jimmy Carter.

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Canada stakes hopes on new border deal with U.S.

excerpted from Toronto Star, November 6 Canada stakes hopes on new border deal with US by Bruce Campion-Smith

An ambitious overhaul of Canada-U.S. relations that boosts border security and speeds trade?

Or a one-day White House wonder that is quickly overshadowed by the distractions of a U.S. election year and a president fighting to win a second term?

Prime Minister Stephen Harper meets with President Barack Obama for a cursory 30 minutes on Wednesday to sign a border pact billed as the biggest change in trans-border relations since the two countries inked their free trade deal in 1988.

The “Beyond the Border” initiative is expected to boost information-sharing between law enforcement agencies, commit new spending on border infrastructure, reduce red tape for shippers, all in a bid to speed trade and travellers across a border that has become increasingly bogged down by security measures.

But for all the hype, experts say it will be years before its success can be truly measured.

Indeed, for it to succeed at all will require the ongoing support of the president and his administration. That might prove a tall order for Obama, who is already in campaign mode for a tough election less than a year away.

“It has the potential to be transformative,” said former Canadian diplomat Colin Robertson, who cautioned that campaign fever was already bogging things down.

“Most of this can be done administratively but even administratively we’re into that period where . . . things go slowly,” said Robertson, a former free trade negotiator who is now a senior strategic adviser at McKenna, Long & Aldridge.

Fen Hampson, director of Carleton University’s Norman Paterson School of International Affairs, said such meetings are important but so, too, are tempered expectations.

“Every time we’ve gone for a smart border, it’s died a bureaucratic death,” Hampson said. “The Americans don’t see a problem and that’s our problem.”

Canada is barely on the radar screen in this town, even less so in an election year. Indeed, in a White House briefing Sunday with reporters on Obama’s week ahead, neither Harper’s visit nor the border pact was even raised….

Robertson is confident that in his efforts to spur the economy, Obama — who has promised to double U.S. exports by 2015 — can’t ignore the upsides of increased trade across an unclogged border.

“He wants jobs. There is a very rational . . . case that this will help improve the situation on both sides but particularly for the Americans,” Robertson said Tuesday.

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