President Trump has demonstrated repeatedly that he considers his adventures as the leader of the free world to be part of some sort of elaborate reality TV show. On Tuesday, he saw an opportunity for some big-league ratings by exploiting a grieving British couple whose 19-year-old son was killed this summer. The plan for this particular episode was to invite the couple to the White House for… [pause for the drumroll] a surprise visit with the woman responsible for their son’s death. It didn’t go so well.
On August 27th, Harry Dunn, a 19-year-old from the United Kingdom, was killed after his motorcycle was struck by a woman driving a car down the wrong side of the street. According to British police, the woman was Anne Sacoolas, the 42-year-old wife of an American diplomat. Sacoolas returned to the United States in September after claiming diplomatic immunity, and hasn’t been seen since. The British government wants her to come back to the U.K. to, as Prime Minister Boris Johnson put it, “engage properly with the processes of law as they are carried out in this country.” Dunn’s parents agree, and have been in the U.S. lobbying for her return.
On Tuesday, they went to the White House to meet with Trump. But after arriving they quickly learned the president aimed to steer them into a surprise, daytime talk show-style encounter with Sacoolas, who was waiting for them in another room of the White House. Photographers were ready.
What, exactly, was the president thinking? According to White House officials spoken to by the Washington Post, aides were worried about thrusting the grieving parents into a meeting with the woman driving the car that killed their son, but Trump believed he could solve the problem and wanted a “hug and make up moment.” The president even sought to stage a scene in which Sacoolas would emerge through a side door to meet Dunn’s parents, according to the Daily Beast.
The grieving parents weren’t having it. “We’ve said all along we are willing to meet her, but it has to be with therapists and mediators,” Charlotte Charles, Dunn’s mother, told CBS This Morning. “And that’s not just for us, it’s for her as well. She’s traumatized, her children are traumatized. To be thrown into a room together with no prior warning, that’s not good for her mental health, and it’s certainly not good for ours. We’ve been locked in grief for seven weeks. None of us knew how we were going to react, and to have that sprung on us…”
Trump didn’t seem to understand. Tim Dunn, Dunn’s father, said he felt pressured and that the president tried to get the couple to meet with Sacoolas multiple times. “We stuck to our guns,” he said.
When Charles tried to explain to the president that if it was his son he would be trying to get justice for him, Trump acknowledged this was true and that he would try to look at the case “from another angle,” without elaborating.
While speaking with reporters on Wednesday, Trump noted that Dunn and Charles did not want to meet with Sacoolas, but he found a way to recast his disaster as a success.
That’s certainly looking at it from another angle.