When European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker came to the White House for trade talks with Donald Trump on Wednesday, he found that the most effective way to communicate with Trump was to use large, brightly colored “cue cards” with no more than three points of information on a specific topic on each card, according to a report by the Wall Street Journal on Thursday.
At one point, the European president told Trump, “If you want to be stupid, I can be stupid, as well,” according to the Journal report. Perhaps as a result, the day of negotiations appeared far more amicable than Trump’s other recent encounters with European and North American leaders, and ended with Trump declaring that the United States and Europe had now agreed to “work together toward zero tariffs, zero non-tariff barriers and zero subsidies on non-auto industrial goods,” CNN reported.
Juncker — who was previously the prime minister of Luxembourg, a country of fewer than 600,000 people — said that the two sides would “hold off on other tariffs” for now.
According to a European Union official who spoke to The Journal, the Europeans prepared for the meeting with Trump by attempting to whittle down their explanations of complex trade issues to the simplest terms possible.
“We knew this wasn’t an academic seminar,” the official told the paper. “It had to be very simple.”
The simplified trade presentation appears consistent with earlier reports of the way Trump is known to consume important information. According to a report in New York Magazine, Trump insisted on receiving “dumbed down” intelligence briefings.
While presidents have generally received a printed “daily brief” containing the most important information gathered by the U.S. intelligence agencies over the previous 24 hours, according to the Washington Post, Trump insisted on a lavishly illustrated briefing document — and then he abandoned even that simplified approach, demanding that intelligence officials simply talk to him about the day’s intelligence.
Presidents also have traditionally received a daily “clip book” compiled by aides and containing summaries of how his decisions, policies, and appearances are covered by the media. Most presidents insist that the clip book contain the good coverage with the bad so that they may gain an accurate portrait of the day’s media coverage, Vox reported.
But Trump insists on receiving a clip book containing only material that praises him. Aides must prepare a clip book for Trump “filled with screenshots of positive cable news chyrons (those lower-third headlines and crawls), admiring tweets, transcripts of fawning TV interviews, praise-filled news stories, and sometimes just pictures of Trump on TV looking powerful,” according to a report by VICE News.