Biden Aides Disgruntled as Trump Plays Host to Foreign Leaders, Echoes of Shadow Presidency

Former President Donald Trump has been hosting a string of foreign dignitaries in recent weeks, drawing both attention and ire from some aides to President Joe Biden who view these meetings as Trump’s attempt to assert a shadow presidency.

In less than two months, Trump has entertained a lineup including Polish President Andrzej Duda, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, former Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso, and David Cameron, the U.K.’s foreign secretary and former British prime minister. Trump has brought these leaders to his properties like Mar-a-Lago and Trump Tower, giving them a taste of the trappings of a state visit. This display has particularly irked some Biden aides, according to three individuals familiar with their frustrations.

Interviews with over a dozen people familiar with U.S. foreign policy and the Biden and Trump campaigns reveal a complex power dynamic. Biden and Trump are vying for influence both domestically and abroad, while foreign leaders seek to shape American policy, boost their standing at home, and cover their bets by cultivating ties with both candidates.

Although the official aspects of these meetings may be limited, the political and policy implications are substantive, posing a challenge for Biden’s team.

“On the official side, it might be helpful,” commented one longtime Biden ally regarding Trump’s interactions with foreign leaders advocating for policies like the Ukraine aid bill Biden signed last month. “On the political side, it’s annoying to see it happen because [Trump] tries to capitalize.”

Trump’s allies, however, see these meetings as advantageous optics, offering validation to Trump as he faces legal challenges. The encounters also suggest to voters that a Trump comeback is plausible.

“At some level,” noted a Trump aide, “they believe [Trump] can win — will win.”

Biden, on the other hand, faces a significant challenge, as indicated by recent polling data. According to a Pew Research Center survey, half of all voters would prefer both Biden and Trump to be replaced on the ballot. Among Biden supporters, a substantial 62% would prefer alternative candidates, underscoring the challenges Biden faces in rallying his base.

In contrast, Trump’s base remains more steadfast in its support.

What does this mean for Biden’s re-election prospects? Biden must persuade voters that a second Trump term is too risky, regardless of their dissatisfaction with his first term. This task is particularly daunting for an incumbent president facing lukewarm support.

As Biden often points out, the real comparison is between him and the alternative. Convincing voters of this distinction will be crucial to his re-election bid, especially given Trump’s enthusiastic base and the potential for lower voter turnout.

In summary, the country’s preference for new leadership poses a formidable obstacle for Biden, who must overcome disillusionment with his first term to secure a second victory.