As the only world leader not present, Donald Trump was conspicuously absent from a key meeting focused on climate change at the G7 summit on Monday. While the White Hous cited scheduling conflicts for the president’s empty chair, photos of the event show that the reason may not be entirely true.
According to CNN, the White House claimed that a meeting with Germany, India, and the United States ran long, so the president wasn’t able to make it to the climate meeting that followed. However, photos of the climate conference show that leaders from both India and Germany were present.
“The President had scheduled meetings and bilaterals with Germany and India, so a senior member of the Administration attended in his stead,” Stephanie Grisham, the White House press secretary, said.
But press photos of the meeting showed the United States’ chair at the meeting empty, while both German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi were in their seats as the meeting began.
When Trump was asked later whether or not he attended the meeting, he said that the climate exchange would be happening later.
“We’re having it in a little while,” he said, according to The Guardian.
“I’m going to. In fact, it’s going to be our next session. I want clear air and clean water,” he added, according to The Hill.
When a reporter pointed out that it had already taken place, the president didn’t appear to hear.
Trump has been critical of the climate meeting in the past, saying that it needs to focus more on economic issues rather than on climate and environmental issues like clearing the oceans of plastic, according to USA Today. The president reportedly pushed for a meeting on Saturday that would be aimed at discussing the global economy instead.
French President Emmanuel Macron, who hosted the meeting, made light of Trump’s absence.
“He wasn’t in the room, but his team was,” Macron said.
He advised reporters not to read into Trump’s absence too much.
Trump also courted controversy on Monday after the climate meeting when he suggested that Russian leader Vladimir Putin should be invited to the next G7 summit, according to the Independent.
“I think… that’s a pretty tough thing for him. He’s a proud person. Would I invite him, I would certainly invite him,” Trump said.
The United States famously became the only country in the world to withdraw from the historic Paris climate accord, which aimed to unify the world in combating climate change.
Macron addressed the decision on Monday, saying that it wasn’t his goal to convince the American president to adopt the agreement any longer.