Besieged by controversy at home, U.S. President Donald Trump is under pressure to stick to the script and avoid fresh flare-ups when he embarks this week on his first foreign trip, a nine-day trek to the Middle East and Europe. Some doubt whether Trump, a businessman-turned politician who never held elective office before becoming president in January, is ready for a smooth presidential debut abroad.
One Republican official, who requested anonymity in order to speak freely, said after meeting Trump recently he did not think the president had a firm enough grasp on the nuances of the long-running Israeli-Palestinian conflict. White House advisers insisted Trump was up to speed on the Middle East, having already hosted Arab, Israeli and Palestinian leaders at the White House.
Conversations with some officials who have briefed Trump and others who are aware of how he absorbs information portray a president with a short attention span. He likes single-page memos and visual aids like maps, charts, graphs and photos.
National Security Council officials have strategically included Trump’s name in “as many paragraphs as we can because he keeps reading if he’s mentioned,” according to one source, who relayed conversations he had with NSC officials. Trump likes to look at a map of the country involved when he learns about a topic.