Obama to press Trump to preserve Cuba détente, says White House
WASHINGTONU.S. President Barack Obama will make his case directly to President-elect Donald Trump not to derail the recent U.S.-Cuba detente, the White House said on Dec. 13, insisting that “turning back the clock” would be damaging to American interests and the Cuban people.
Ben Rhodes, Obama’s deputy national security adviser, said the outgoing administration hopes to persuade the incoming Trump administration to preserve Obama’s policy of engagement despite the president-elect’s threat to roll back the opening with the communist-ruled island.
Just weeks before Trump takes office, Obama and his aides are seeking to further cement one of his top foreign policy legacy initiatives, a breakthrough between former Cold War foes announced two years ago. But since Obama eased travel and trade restrictions through executive actions, Trump would be able to reverse them on his own if he chooses to do so.
“Cuba has been and will be on the list of issues where President Obama will make his case that this is the right approach for American interests,” Rhodes told reporters on a teleconference, referring to transition talks between the two, according to Reuters.
Trump, who takes office on Jan. 20, 2017, has vowed to “terminate” Obama’s engagement with Cuba unless Havana gives the United States what he calls a “better deal,” including allowing broader political freedoms on the island. The Cuban government so far has refrained from commenting on Trump’s statements.
“What we believe would be very damaging is any effort to turn off the opening,” Rhodes said, asserting it would hurt the Cuban people, U.S. business interests and Washington’s standing in Latin America.
Meanwhile, Trump met Dec. 13 with several black celebrities, including rap mogul and possible future presidential candidate Kanye West, to talk about some of the issues facing inner city African-Americans, The Associated Press reported.
“I feel it is important to have a direct line of communication with our future president if we truly want change,” West later said in a tweet.
Trump met with West, former NFL linebacker Ray Lewis and NFL icon and civil rights leader Jim Brown, along with longtime Trump backer Omarosa Manigault, at Trump Tower in New York City on Dec. 13. West refused to comment with reporters after the meeting, instead saying only “I just want to take a picture right now” as he posed for pictures with Trump.
A few minutes later, West tweeted from his @kanyewest account that he met with Trump “to discuss multicultural issues” including bullying, education and “violence in Chicago.”
West announced last year at the Video Music Awards that he would run for president in 2020. That means he would face Trump if the president-elect seeks a second term.
After meeting with Trump, West hashtagged a tweet #2024, the first time someone would be able to run for president outside of a possible two-term Trump presidency.