When Mr. Trump spoke via teleconference to the troops stationed abroad, with servers quietly setting up tables nearby, presumably for the Thanksgiving feast to come, he assured them that under his leadership, the country was prospering in their absence. He indulged in a series of riffs about their service, immigration and, in one instance, the merits of an electromagnetic catapult system.
“Steam is very reliable and the electromagnetic, unfortunately, you have to be Albert Einstein to really work it properly,” Mr. Trump said to one naval officer. (“You have to be Albert Einstein to run the nuclear power plants we have here as well,” the officer said, “but we’re doing that very well.”)
“How are they feeling about trade?” he asked another officer. (“We don’t see any issues in terms of trade right now,” the officer said.)
“It’s a terrible thing when judges take over your protective services,” he informed another commander, referring to a federal judge’s ruling that the administration must resume accepting asylum claims. “When they tell you how to protect the border, it’s a disgrace.” (There was no specific response.)
During the teleconference, which included troops stationed in Afghanistan, the president hinted at a coming visit to armed forces abroad. The president, who has faced renewed scrutiny over his complicated relationship with the military, including claims that his movement of troops to the border was a political sham, has not yet visited service members overseas, as his predecessors did.
Mr. Trump later stopped to deliver sandwiches at a Coast Guard station in Riviera Beach, Fla. — forever the marketer, for the second year in a row he celebrated the flourishing “brand” of the military branch — before an afternoon at his West Palm Beach golf course.
Melania Trump, the first lady, did not join him as she did last year for his visit with the Coast Guard members. But she was expected to join him and other members of the Trump family at Mar-a-Lago for the Thanksgiving dinner.