It's an uncomfortable time for foreign heads of state paying official visits to Washington right now, given that their host, Donald Trump, is embroiled in a bombshell whistleblower scandal and an impeachment inquiry. On Wednesday, Finnish president Sauli Niinistö had the misfortunate of visiting the Oval Office on a day when news broke that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was also implicated in the scandal, plunging Trump into a foul mood that included a profanity-punctuated social media tirade for good measure.
When the meeting was opened to the press, Niinistö dealt with the awkwardness in diplomatic fashion: by doing his very best to maintain a straight face as the president bickered with and berated reporters, with occasional Can you believe this? glances sprinkled in whenever he couldn't hold it together any longer.
Trump seemed particularly vexed that the pair fielded far more questions about his alleged criminality than they did about, say, the strength of U.S.-Finland relations in 2019. As a result, Niinistö just sort of had to stand there while Trump called the whistleblower a "spy," labeled House Intelligence Committee chair Adam Schiff a "lowlife" in the midst of a "mental breakdown," and asserted that Schiff is unfit to carry Pompeo's "blank-strap" as in jockstrap. When Trump attempted to dole out a congenial knee pat, Niinistö's reaction was one of muted irritation.
During one particularly agonizing exchange, Reuters reporter Jeff Mason asked Trump what he hoped Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky would do about the Biden family when he asked Zelensky to open an investigation into his Democratic political rival. Some two minutes later, when Trump had finished complaining about vaguely-described corruption within the Ukrainian government, Mason asked Trump would answer the specific question about his intent. "Are you talking to me?" an irate Trump replied, offering his best De Niro-in-Taxi Driver impression. "We have the president of Finland! Ask him a question!" Upon repeating this demand, Trump scolded Mason for being "rude" before blasting the media as "fake" and "corrupt."
Trump did not fare much better with the Finnish press in the room. After encouraging Niinistö to call on a Finnish reporter—"pick someone who's really nice," Trump said—the person Niinistö picked asked him the following question: "Because this is the biggest issue here at the moment, I have to ask: What kind of favors has Mr. Trump asked from you?"
In his opening remarks, long before all this madness, Niinistö began by praising the United States and issuing a polite request to his counterpart. "Mr. President, you have here a great democracy," he said, turning to address Trump directly as he spoke. "Keep it going on." It does not appear Trump took this exhortation to heart.
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Originally Appeared on GQ