There are a lot of mysteries and questions about the Donald Trump presidential campaign like, how did he get this far? And who does his hair? But perhaps there’s no more burning question than who is advising him on foreign policy. More to our point, given the former host of The Apprentice’s statements on immigration and his recent trip to Mexico to visit President Enrique Peña Nieto, who is advising him on Latin America?
Global Americans did a little digging. First, a colleague of ours called the main number listed on his website to inquire. She was referred to a local campaign office in, of all places, New Jersey! (Actually, in their defense, she was calling from a Garden State cell phone number so it made sense.) When she called the number, the woman at first was cordial. The tone turned when she said she was calling with an inquiry about who his advisors were. At first, the woman said she didn’t know because it was a campaign office (fair enough) and referred her to the website and the general website’s e-mail. When my colleague persisted, saying that the website didn’t have that information and she was asking about his Latin America advisors, the conversation turned hostile. The hapless Trump phone-bank responder referred again to the website and said that she couldn’t help my colleague because the Garden-State-Trump campaign headquarters didn’t have internet. (Maybe, rather than to the New Jersey office, my colleague had been referred to a time warp back to the 1980s, back when Trump was still considered a successful businessman.) With that, the conversation abruptly ended, and the woman hung up.
Thwarted by the Trump campaign, we did a little more digging on the internet. (You’ve heard of it right? It’s the same thing that The Donald’s New Jersey campaign’s office doesn’t have access to.)
In a briefing at the Department of State on July 19, Joe Schmitz, Trump’s declared foreign policy and national security advisor (if you just asked yourself “who?” you’re not alone) responded to a question on how Trump sees the region by saying “I don’t think Mr. Trump or any of his foreign policy advisors see Latin America as just some big blob that you can just generalize about Latin America. I think he’ll treat each country in Latin America separately and with respect. I don’t know what else I can say other than what I said earlier about Mr. Trump wanting to be honest and fair with our allies and honest and tough with our enemies.”
I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling better already: The Blob is not about to invade the United States as the 1950’s movie and it sequel alleged. (Though we can assume its criminals or rapists are based on The Donald’s scurrilous speech announcing his candidacy.)
So, when asked a follow-up question on what Trump’s plan would be for the region, Schmitz suggested to the reporter that she should reach out to Michael Socarras, who he pronounced was a proud Cuban and supporter of Trump. (If you find yourself asking “who?” again? I bet you’re not the only one.) Socarras had not been included in the Trump team as others were during Trump’s discussion about his foreign policy team with the Washington Post editorial board in March. But it does turn out that he and Schmitz are law partners in McClean, VA, where he represents Latin American companies, or so the website says.
Never mind, separate from Socarras, it was revealed by the Washington Post that Trump has discussed much of his immigration policy with Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama. Senator Sessions joined Trump’s campaign as a senior policy advisor. Here are a few of the things Sessions has said about immigration and immigrants: in April this year the senator from the great (and former segregationist) state of Alabama said, if you’re not a U.S. citizen, “you don’t have a constitutional right to demand entry to the country” and once claimed—incorrectly—that “there are about 350,000 people who succeed in crossing our borders illegally each year.” Not surprisingly the senator—who was once described by The New York Times as “elfin” (is there a hobbit-like senator?)—opposed the bipartisan 2013 immigration reform bill.
OK, so clearly Trump is listening to Sessions on immigration. Is there anyone else who “advises” The Donald on foreign policy that has lived, worked or done research on any of the 32 countries south of the U.S. border?
Let me just run through a few names Trump has provided. There’s Walid Phares, a professor at National Defense University who is “an adviser to the U.S. House of Representatives on terrorism;” Carter Page, “the founder of Global Energy Capital with experience as an investment banker in London and Moscow;” George Papadopoulos, who “worked for former Republican candidate Ben Carson, and is an oil and gas consultant focused on the geopolitics of the energy trade;” General Joseph Keith Kellogg a “former COO at Oracle, former leader of the 82nd Airborne Division and former chief operating officer of the multinational Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq” and—of course the sage of Trump-foreign-policy world—Joe Schmitz (José in Mexican, which Trump seems to think is a language) a “former Defense Department Inspector General and executive with the Blackwater security firm” (yeah, that Blackwater).
Any common theme? I guess energy and the military.
But no Latin American or Caribbean specialists on this bench—except for the mysterious Socarras.
So, how about Trump’s businesses? The centerpiece of his holdings in the hemisphere is the Trump Real Estate, Golf and Hotel Collection. Nevertheless each of the websites says clearly that the holdings are “not owned, developed or sold by Donald J. Trump, The Trump Organization or any of their principals or affiliates. Aetos SA, the owner and developer of the property uses the “Trump” name and mark under license from Trump Marks Punta del Este LLC, which license may be terminated or revoked according to its terms.”
That said, Trump Real Estate, Golf and Hotel Collection has properties in: Panama City, Panama; Punta del Este, Uruguay; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (in 2018) and previously in Puerto Rico. Despite the namesake’s holdings in Puerto Rico, though, The Donald told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer “I wouldn’t bail them [the debt-burdened U.S. commonwealth] out.” (Just in case you forgot, Trump had four bankruptcies in which he benefitted from Chapter 11 under U.S. law.)
In the end, we really don’t know who is advising Trump on Latin America—or in foreign policy for that matter. Nevertheless, we can rest assured. According to the former reality-show T.V. host, in an interview with MSNBC, the former host of a reality show said “I’m speaking with myself, number one, because I have a very good brain, and I’ve said a lot of things… But I speak to a lot of people, but my primary consultant is myself, and I have a good instinct for this stuff.”
Clearly, Trump’s “good brain” has shown that Latin America and the Caribbean are not The Blob. Anything more you’d need to ask the Socorras. Good luck finding him.