President Trump over the weekend called for President Jimmy Carter to discuss the U.S.-China relationship, the first time the sitting commander in chief is known to have reached out to a predecessor on a policy issue.
"President Jimmy Carter wrote President Trump a beautiful letter about the current negotiations with China and on Saturday they had a very good telephone conversation about President Trump’s stance on trade with China and numerous other topics," the White House said in a statement Monday afternoon. "The President has always liked President Carter and First Lady Rosalynn Carter, and extended his best wishes to them on behalf of the American people."
Carter, a Democrat who served as president 1977-81, relayed his discussion with the president at church Sunday morning, reported Emma Hurt, a reporter for NPR affiliate WABE, later that day. In a series of tweets, she said, Carter recalled Trump saying, “China is getting ahead of us.”
Trump's outreach to Carter is his first known effort to speak with a former president about policy. Trump's relations with the other former presidents and their spouses have been particularly frosty. He regularly chides former first lady Hillary Clinton, former secretary of state and his defeated 2016 Democratic rival, and sometimes her husband, President Bill Clinton.
And just Sunday, former first lady Michelle Obama equated America to a child “from a broken family,” with President Trump playing the role of the “divorced dad.”
“We come from a broken family, we are a little unsettled,” Obama, on a book tour in London for her autobiography Becoming, told Stephen Colbert.
Trump and Carter have a relationship going back to the latter's White House days. Heading into Carter's 1980 reelection bid, which he lost to Ronald Reagan, Trump, then a prominent New York real estate developer, gave the president's campaign the maximum federal campaign contribution allowed. So did Trump's parents, sister, and brother, according to Federal Election Commission records.
The records show no donation from Trump to Reagan for four more years. In fact, 10 months after Reagan’s 1981 inauguration, Trump made an early contribution to the political action committee for the presidential bid of former Vice President Walter Mondale, a Democrat.