Meeting in the maelstrom of breaking news, President Donald Trump took a moment Wednesday to explain the significance of a Supreme Court vacancy to visiting Portuguese President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa.
Trump greeted Rebelo de Sousa in the Oval Office and then turned to the cameras to offer his reaction to Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy’s retirement. The vacancy gives Trump a golden chance to cement conservative control of the nation’s high court — and the president wanted to make sure his out-of-town guest was aware of the stakes.
“In our country, the selection of a justice of the United States Supreme Court is considered, I think we can all say, one of the most important events,” Trump told Rebelo de Sousa, adding that the court can “swing different ways” depending on its composition.
“Some people think outside of, obviously war and peace, it’s the most important thing that you could have,” Trump said.
Rebelo de Sousa concurred, noting that he was also a constitutional law professor. “I just heard the news and I imagine how important it is for you,” he said, pivoting to Portugal’s role as the first neutral country to recognize America’s independence.
“I don’t know if you know it, but your Founding Fathers celebrated independence with our wine — with Madeira wine,” Rebelo de Sousa said. “They made a toast with our Madeira wine.”
The two leaders planned to hold talks on the upcoming NATO summit, trade and energy security. But the conversation quickly shifted to Russian President Vladimir Putin — whom Trump is expected to meet with next month — and World Cup soccer.The Portuguese president suggested “if you ever go to Russia during the championship, don’t forget Portugal is still there and wanting to win the championship.”