Trump asked if Vietnamese PM's name sounds like 'Fook You' in 2017

Trump asked if the Vietnamese Prime Minister had a name that sounded like ‘Fook You’ before they met in 2017, new book claims

  • Former US Ambassador to Vietnam Ted Osius said ‘nothing could have prepared [him] for the strangeness’ of Trump’s May 2017 meeting with Nguyen Xuân Phúc
  • He claims the president had to ask who he was meeting with minutes before it
  • Osius also claimed Jared Kushner had influence over building a new embassy
  • Kushner allegedly shrugged off concerns that the existing Hanoi embassy’s insufficient safety measures could allow it to end up ‘like Benghazi’
  • Trump made it clear to Phúc that ‘presidential visits come with a price tag’

Trump asked national security aides if the Vietnamese prime minister’s name was pronounced like ‘Fook You’ shortly before their meeting, the ex-US Ambassador to Vietnam’s new book claims

Donald Trump once asked aides if the Vietnamese prime minister’s name was pronounced like ‘Fook You’ just minutes before meeting with the Southeast Asian leader, a new book excerpt revealed on Tuesday.

Former US Ambassador to Vietnam Ted Osius said ‘nothing could have prepared [him] for the strangeness’ of the ex-president’s May 2017 White House meeting with Prime Minister Nguyen Xuân Phúc in a section of his forthcoming book about US-Vietnam relations.

Osius only met Trump just before the meeting, he claimed in the excerpt released by Salon. He recounted stepping into a crowded Oval Office where he ‘stared at a stiff helmet of orange hair.’

The diplomat said Trump told him he was ‘lucky’ to have such a ‘good job.’ 

He agreed, adding ‘I love my job and feel privileged to do it.’ 

Shortly before the planned state visit began Trump asked him, ‘So, who are we meeting?’

A senior national security official apparently foresaw trouble and tried to help the ex-president pronounce the head of state’s name.

‘Nguyen Xuân Phúc,’ they said, according to Osius. ‘Rhymes with book.’

‘You mean like Fook You?’ Trump allegedly replied before following the racist comment up with an unprompted tangent. 

‘I knew a guy named Fook You. Really. I rented him a restaurant. When he picked up the phone, he answered “Fook You.” His business went badly. People didn’t like that. He lost the restaurant,’ he said.

Trump participated in an expanded bilateral meeting with Vietnam’s communist leader in May 2017 after reportedly having to be reminded who he was meeting with that day has reached out to a Trump spokeswoman and the Trump Organization for comment.  

The former president was well-known to make racially charged statements even before he took office. When Barack Obama was in the White House he pushed the ‘birther’ theory that the Democrat wasn’t really born in the United States.

Former White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham’s account of working with the ex-president lends credibility to Osius’ claims.

Trump ‘frequently said insane things to foreign leaders,’ Grisham wrote in her memoir. 

Grisham claimed at a G20 summit in 2019 he asked Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan if he’d seen the movie Midnight Express, adding that ‘that’s a dark movie for you guys’ to the Turkish leader and his aides.

The 1978 film is about an American imprisoned in Turkey after trying to smuggle out hashish. It’s been criticized for its violent depiction of Turks.  

Osius is a seasoned diplomat with decades of experience in embassies across Asia. He’s worked under Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama as well, but served as Trump’s ambassador only until November 2017.

He resigned in protest of the Trump administration’s proposal to deport Vietnamese refugees who had lived in the US for decades. 

His memoir, Nothing is Impossible: America’s Reconciliation with Vietnam, details Osius’ firsthand account of watching the US build up relations with Vietnam after the years of fallout from the Vietnam War.

In the Tuesday excerpt Osius outlined several incidents during the Vietnamese prime minister’s trip that made it stand out against his nearly 25-year career.

The day before meeting with the president, Osius accompanied Phúc to an ‘unsettling’ meeting with Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross. 

‘The eighty-one-year-old secretary seemed lost, unable to find his place in his briefing notes or to determine which trade challenges to emphasize. His translator was also hapless, and we had to rely on the prime minister’s,’ Osius wrote.

Trump allegedly forgot or wasn’t aware that he had a planned visit to Vietnam in November 2017 just six months before it was scheduled to happen (pictured: Trump at the 2017 meeting)

His following meetings with Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue and US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer were far more productive, the diplomat claimed.

While plotting the meeting with Phúc in the Oval Office Trump instructed Lighthizer to ‘bring the US trade deficit with Vietnam to zero in four years.’

Osius noted that it was an ‘impossible task,’ and said Lighthizer tried to shift focus toward asking Trump about a new embassy for Hanoi and a potential groundbreaking ceremony during the president’s trip to Vietnam.

But Trump was caught by surprise, asking ‘I’m visiting?’

He went on a scheduled trip to Vietnam in November 2017, but no groundbreaking ceremony took place. On the November visit the White House instead touted an ‘agreement’ to secure land for a new compound.

In his book Osius appears to claim Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, had some part in the delay.

After Trump ‘disappeared into another room’ when he learned of his planned trip, Osius claimed Kushner asked how much the embassy would cost.

Jared Kushner instructed Osius to leverage the building of a new embassy in Hanoi against the trade deficit, Osius claims

Osius told him it would likely cost ‘half as much’ as the recently-constructed $1 billion Beijing embassy.

But Kushner wasn’t satisfied, with Osius noting he ‘seemed surprised.’

‘That’s a lot. Why are we spending so much? If we’re going to give them that, we should get something back,’ Kushner reportedly replied.

Osius observed, ‘I wondered if he understood that we were trying to build a new embassy for the United States and not for Vietnam.’

He warned the Trump family member-turned-adviser that the existing embassy – where Osius operates when he’s in Vietnam – was meant to be temporary and lacked the necessary safety features.

‘It’s not safe. A truck bomb could drive right up to it and blow us up in a moment. Like in Benghazi,’ he advised, recalling the devastating attack that left a black mark on Obama and then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s legacies and killed four Americans including the US ambassador to Libya.

But he said Kushner shrugged off the potentially life-threatening need for repairs – and repeated his father-in-law’s impossible task.

‘We need something in return. Tell them we’ll build it if they bring our trade deficit to zero,’ the adviser replied.  

Osius wrote, ‘I repeated my argument about security for American citizens, but Kushner’s dark eyes had shifted elsewhere. He was no longer listening.’ 

Barack Obama nominated him to serve as US Ambassador to Vietnam, a post he continued under Trump until November 2017. Another instance of Trump’s racism was when he fueled ‘birther’ conspiracy theories that Democratic president was born outside of the US

Another aide influencing Trump during the meeting, the career official claimed, was senior adviser Stephen Miller. 

During the Trump administration Miller was alleged to be behind some of the White House’s more controversial policies, often accused of being racially-charged, like the Remain In Mexico policy for asylum-seekers.

The diplomat said Miller was behind Trump demanding the leader of Vietnam’s Communist government publicly ‘extol the virtues of free and fair trade.’ 

His other demands to Phúc in addition to reducing the trade deficit to nothing in four years included urging the country to increase pressure against North Korea. 

Trump pointed out to the prime minister that ‘Saudi Arabia had placed orders worth $450 billion during the president’s recent visit there.’    

Trump told him, ‘Jared [Kushner] and Rex [Tillerson] worked really hard,’ according to Osius’ account.

He urged Phúc to ‘make more progress’ on his requests before he came to Vietnam in November. 

The diplomat wrote, ‘The message was clear: presidential visits came with a price tag.’

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