‘What storm, Mr. President?’ Trump puts world on edge with cryptic cliffhanger

 In World
The day was supposed to be over — at least, that’s what the White House communications staff told reporters Thursday evening as President Trump retired to the State Dining Room for dinner with his top military commanders.

Then, unexpectedly, the president summoned them back into action. That day’s episode was not quite over. A plot twist was ahead.

At 7:18 p.m., reporters were led into the lavish dining room where the military’s senior leaders and their spouses were lined up on either side of the president and First Lady Melania Trump in preparation for a formal group photo.

“You guys know what this represents?” Trump said gesturing to the commanders surrounding him as he made looping motions with his right index finger.

He dramatically paused and then said: “Maybe it’s the calm before the storm.”

President Trump, center left, gives a thumbs up next to first lady Melania Trump, center right, during an official photograph with senior military leaders and spouses at the White House Thursday. (Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg)

“What’s the storm?” a reporter called out, as the officials and their spouses continued to pose, their faces frozen in toothy smiles, even as many of their eyes began to dart around the room.

“Could be the calm before the storm,” the president said.

It felt like the opening scene of an action movie — the president, stiffly rotating from side to side, surveying the country’s military leaders and providing an ominous hint that something would soon unfold. He wouldn’t say what, but it seemed clear that it wouldn’t be anything good. Maybe something involving North Korea or the Islamic State terrorist organization or Iran or who knows what else.

Or maybe not — maybe this was just the showman president grabbing the day’s narrative and providing viewers with a reason to keep tuning in, even if there was no plan for an actual storm. Media pundits spent much of the day Friday trying to guess what he meant.

“I think this is a president who is living in a constant reality TV show,” said Timothy O’Brien, a journalist who wrote “TrumpNation: The Art of Being the Donald” in 2005. “He loves the notion of ‘Tune in next week for the next exciting installation of ‘The White House,’ an ongoing reality show and national psychodrama.’”

For decades, Trump played popular culture’s role of the stereotypical rich guy, and he starred in the reality game show, “The Apprentice,” for more than a decade. O’Brien said that Trump is first and foremost an entertainer — and one who is always engaging in performance art.

“He believes he connects to people by keeping the mystery alive,” said O’Brien, who has been openly critical of the president, “when, in reality, what we want from our parents, our managers and our presidents are people who provide direction and clarity in a sober-minded way.”

On Thursday evening, reporters were only in the dining room for about a minute — and they kept asking the president to explain what he meant.

“What storm, Mr. President?” an NBC News reporter called out.

“We have the world’s great military people in this room, I will tell you that,” Trump said in a loud but calm tone, flanked by his generals, whom he then thanked for coming to the White House.

Again, a reporter asked: “What storm, Mr. President?”

He responded: “You’ll find out.”

Some of the theories floating out there: Maybe Trump was referring to the international deal with Iran, as he is expected to announce next week that he will “decertify” the agreement and kick it to Congress to handle. Or maybe he is planning to intensify the attacks on the Islamic State terrorists in the Middle East. Or maybe the storm has something to do with North Korea or Syria. Or maybe he was referring to the actual storm that’s headed towards the United States this weekend, Hurricane Nate. Or maybe he didn’t mean anything by it at all.

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