In a presidency overflowing with bizarre side plots, one of the standouts is Donald Trump’s reported desire to purchase Greenland from Denmark. While the controversy produced a response from the Danish that Greenland was not actually for sale, and plenty of memes, it turns out Trump was dead serious in his attempt, and had the idea planted in his mind by the billionaire heir to the Estée Lauder cosmetics fortune, Ronald Lauder.
According to The Divider: Trump in the White House, 2017-2021, a new book by New Yorker columnist Susan Glasser and The New York Times’ Peter Baker, the billionaire cosmetics heir offered to act as a liaison for Trump with the Danish government in order to secure a deal for the United States to acquire the frigid territory. “A friend of mine, a really, really experienced businessman, thinks we can get Greenland,” Trump reportedly told an adviser.
Baker, who detailed some of the contents of the book for the Times and interviewed Trump in the process of writing it, indicated that the president contradicted Lauder and “claimed the idea was his personal inspiration,” telling Baker he looked at a map and wondered, “‘Why don’t we have that?’”
“I love maps,” Trump elaborated, “and I always said: ‘Look at the size of this. It’s massive. That should be part of the United States.’”
Some aides were reportedly flabbergasted by the request, which rather than being dismissed out of hand became a recurring topic for Trump’s national security team. Former National Security Adviser John Bolton was apparently “concerned about expanding Chinese influence in the Arctic,” and “thought that an increased American presence in Greenland made sense but that an outright purchase was not feasible.” Bolton ordered the creation of a team charged with exploring options, and at one point covert discussions were held with Denmark’s ambassador. Trump also suggested taking federal money from Puerto Rico to make the purchase, and even swapping control of the two territories.
The Divider, which will hit bookshelves next week, paints a portrait of a mercurial presidency prone to whims, impulsivity, and paranoia. According to Baker and Glasser, Trump regularly criticized women for their appearance, calling House Speaker Nancy Pelosi an example of plastic surgery gone wrong and saying he wouldn’t choose Nikki Haley as a running mate because of her “complexion problem.” The pair also write of Trump’s fear of assasination as retaliation for the killing of Iranian general Qassem Suleimani, offering King Abdullah of Jordan control of Palestine’s West Bank, attempts to block the merger of CNN with Time Warner, and his disenchantment with Vice President Mike Pence in the aftermath of the 2020 election.
Trump’s erratic behavior as president has followed him out of the White House. The former president is currently contending with a variety of investigations, including his mishandling of classified documents, his potential involvement in a scheme to stop the Electoral College certification of President Joe Biden, and his role in the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.