Breaking News Emails
The White House is pushing back on reports of a secret Mar-a-Lago meeting between President Donald Trump and two former Colombian presidents last week.
A White House official acknowledged to NBC News that former Colombian Presidents Álvaro Uribe and Andrés Pastrana were invited to Trump's Palm Beach club by one of its members, but say the group shared a mere hand shake after Trump bumped into them there. The official, who spoke to NBC News on condition of anonymity, says the entire exchange lasted only a couple of minutes and denies that the tenuous Colombian peace deal with the FARC — a revolutionary group in the country — was discussed.
When asked about the meeting during Wednesday's press briefing, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer told reporters "I don’t have anything for you at this time."
But the White House account doesn't match that from one of the meeting's participants. Pastrana tweeted a thank you at the President's Twitter handle after the meeting, expressing gratitude for a "cordial and very frank conversation" about the problems of Colombia and the region.
The Miami Herald was first to report the meeting, adding that it was reportedly arranged by Florida Republican Senator Marco Rubio, a critic of the peace plan.
Trump himself has not yet publicly discussed his stance on the issue, but his decision could impact the $450 million in foreign aid promised by former President Barack Obama.
The Mar-a-Lago meeting brings forth many questions, both about what the Trump administration will do regarding the FARC deal, but also regarding government transparency and the loophole that Mar-a-Lago provides.
Asked about the added secrecy of Mar-a-Lago, the same White House official argued that the president can hold meetings and bump into people outside of the White House as well. And Spicer has long defended the Palm Beach destination as a place for the president to both work and see family.
But visitor logs are not disclosed from the club, which members must pay a fee of $200,000 to join, and Trump has spent seven weekends at his Palm Beach getaway. While there, he often golfs with undisclosed partners - despite requests from White House reporters to know who is joining him on the course.