Donald Trump Reportedly Wanted to Trade Puerto Rico for Greenland

·3 min read
Former U.S. President Donald Trump leaves Trump Tower in Manhattan on July 19, 2021 in New York City
Former U.S. President Donald Trump leaves Trump Tower in Manhattan on July 19, 2021 in New York City

James Devaney/GC Images Donald Trump

New details have emerged about former President Donald Trump's alleged desire to have the United States acquire the island of Greenland while in office. According to a forthcoming book, the former president at one point even suggested to aides that the U.S. could trade Puerto Rico for it.

The claim is one of many sensational moments found in the new book The Divider: Trump in the White House, 2017-2021, which debuts next Tuesday.

In the book, journalists Peter Baker and Susan Glasser write that Trump's interest in buying Greenland stemmed from Estée Lauder cosmetics heir Ronald Lauder, who "discussed it with him from the early days of the presidency and offered himself as a back channel to the Danish government to negotiate."

According to the book, former national security adviser John Bolton even had his aide Fiona Hill "assemble a small team to brainstorm ideas. They engaged in secret talks with Denmark's ambassador and produced an options memo."

While Bolton thought that "an outright purchase was not feasible," Trump "kept pushing," the authors write.

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From an excerpt of the book, published by The New York Times: "He suggested taking federal money from Puerto Rico, which he disparaged, and using it to buy Greenland. On another occasion, he suggested outright trading Puerto Rico for Greenland."

While aides told Baker that the idea was the brainchild of Lauder, Trump at other times claimed the idea to purchase Greenland as his own, telling the journalist he spotted the island on a map and asked, "Why don't we have that?"

"I love maps," Trump told the author, "and I always said: 'Look at the size of this. It's massive. That should be part of the United States.'"

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Trump's interest in Greenland was widely reported in 2019, with some suggesting that Trump's interest stemmed from the fact that the island is resource-rich, with stores of coal and uranium, and offers geopolitical advantages thanks to its positioning between the U.S. and Russia and in the Arctic, where China has set its sights.

"It's just something we talked about," Trump told reporters in August 2019. "Denmark essentially owns it. We're very good allies with Denmark. We protect Denmark like we protect large portions of the world. So the concept came up and I said, 'Certainly, I'd be. Strategically, it's interesting, and we'd be interested.' But we'll talk to them a little bit. It's not No. 1 on the burner, I can tell you that."

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"Of course, Greenland is not for sale," the island's government said in a statement at the time, according to Associated Press, noting diplomatically: "We see it as an expression of greater interest in investing in our country and the possibilities we offer."

Denmark's prime minister, meanwhile, called the notion "absurd."

Trump's relationship with Puerto Rico, meanwhile, was much maligned, after a delayed response to (and seeming lack of empathy for) the Hurricane-ravaged island in 2017.