President Donald Trump's administration ordered "that Barack Obama not be given any assistance other than security arrangements by the American embassy in South Africa," according to The Citizen, a South African newspaper.
Instructions from Washington ensured that none of the U.S. embassy staff assisted the former president, whose visit "was mainly arranged and coordinated by the Nelson Mandela and Obama foundations," breaking the longstanding diplomatic norm of providing support to any visiting American leader, regardless of their party affiliation.
According to Wits University international relations visiting professor John Stremlau, President Trump had “a penchant for pettiness and strange fixation with denigrating and dismissing virtually all actions by his predecessor."
Trump rose to prominence on the lie that Obama was born in Kenya and hence was not legitimate. One should never underestimate how low he can go.
But given how thin the embassy staff is, without an ambassador and several recent departures of lesser ranks, Washington would simply defer to the hosts.
“I recall when Obama was president and delivered the December 2013 memorial address for Mandela, a fake singer managed to con his way on stage and stand right next to him,” said Stremlau, referring to the discredited Thamsanqa Jantjie. “One would think that would be a warning both to the hosts and the US government.”
The president has often been accused of harboring racial animus toward his predecessor and did, as Stremlau notes, perpetuate the long-standing rumors and conspiracy theories that have accused Obama himself of not being an American citizen, despite incontrovertible evidence to the contrary.
Trump has often attacked Obama's foreign policy and has, on top of his insistence that Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into whether Russian operatives worked to undermine democracy is a Democratic ploy orchestrated by the prior administration, declared Obama a “patsy” for Russia.
“Look at the sanctions I've put on. look at the diplomats I threw out. Look at all of the things that I've done. Nobody else did what I've done. Obama didn't do it. Obama was a patsy for Russia. he was a total patsy. look at the statement he made when he thought the mics were turned off, okay?” Trump said during an interview with CNBC’s “Squawk Box” that was taped yesterday and aired today.
“Getting along with President Putin, getting along with Russia is a positive, not a negative. Now, with that being said, if that doesn't work out, I'll be the worst enemy he's ever had. The worst he's ever had," he added.
NEW — President Trump tells CNBC: Obama was a ‘patsy’ for Russia, 'I'll be the worst enemy' Vladimir Putin has ever… https://t.co/sSz2TTX4PB— CNBC Now (@CNBC Now) 1532032899.0
These statements didn't go over well with many observers, particularly since earlier this week, the president sparked one of the most heated scandals of his tenure to date when he sided with Russian President Vladimir Putin over the assessment from U.S. intelligence agencies that Russian operatives interfered in the 2016 presidential election and undermined American democracy.
Trump says “Obama was a patsy for Russia.” I don’t totally get psychological projection. But I’m pretty certain… https://t.co/BFT3ySvXQd— Bryan Behar (@Bryan Behar) 1532068470.0
@PhilipRucker Patsy: a person who is easily taken advantage of, especially by being cheated or blamed for somethin… https://t.co/V4LFapK8sD— Discouraged Citizen (@Discouraged Citizen) 1532090312.0
I've said it before: everything @realDonaldTrump accuses others of is something he's done or is doing. The big shoc… https://t.co/wmu3YQ4uTF— Gayle Berens (@Gayle Berens) 1532094993.0
Calls for the president’s impeachment have intensified since he sided with Putin.
“President Putin says it’s not Russia. I don’t see any reason why it should be,” he responded after he was asked if he concurred with the findings of U.S. intelligence agencies that Russian operatives launched unprecedented cyberattacks on the democratic process.
Joint Press Conference from Helsinki, Finland: https://t.co/fadLMDuGiY— Donald J. Trump (@Donald J. Trump) 1531757486.0
The following day, the president walked back that assertion, saying he had misspoken when he appeared to accept Putin’s denials that Russia interfered.
“I accept our intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election took place,” Trump said. “Could be other people also. A lot of people out there. There was no collusion at all, and people have seen that, and they’ve seen that strongly.”
Trump then claimed that he had intended to say the word “would” instead of “wouldn’t” when he contradicted U.S. intelligence findings, as when he said, “With that being said, all I can do is ask the question. My people came to me, Dan Coats came to me and some others, they said they think it’s Russia. I have President Putin; he just said it’s not Russia. I will say this: I don’t see any reason why it would be.”
“The sentence should have been, ‘I don’t see any reason why it wouldn’t be Russia.’ Sort of a double negative,” Trump told reporters. “So you can put that in, and I think that probably clarifies things pretty good by itself. I have on numerous occasions noted our intelligence findings that Russians attempted to interfere in our elections.”
The day after that, Trump, responded "No" when asked by a CNN reporter whether Russia is still launching cyberattacks against the United States.