As revelations of President Donald Trump’s early understanding of the coronavirus threat rocked Washington, the White House and its surrogates were focusing on the Nobel Peace Prize.
On Wednesday, Trump vigorously promoted the news that he had been nominated for the prize, tweeting at least 17 times in less than a half-hour about his candidacy for the prestigious commendation.
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany led a news briefing by heralding the nomination, and White House senior adviser Jared Kushner cheered the president for “bringing the Middle East closer together” with the drafting of the Abraham Accords.
Christian Tybring-Gjedde, a far-right member of the Norwegian Parliament, revealed his nomination of Trump in a Facebook post citing the “groundbreaking cooperation agreement” the White House announced last month between Israel and the United Arab Emirates.
All the while, a number of news reports broke on the president’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic and the actions of his administration officials.
The Washington Post’s Bob Woodward revealed that Trump had acknowledged in early February how bad the coronavirus pandemic would be and that he wanted to downplay its impact to reduce public panic. A whistleblower complaint alleged the Department of Homeland Security tried to suppress investigations into Russian interference to help Trump save face. And the Justice Department moved to try to take over a defamation suit against the president, potentially quashing it.
It was a juxtaposition apparent during McEnany’s news briefing, as reporters quickly turned a celebratory occasion into an interrogation on the many damaging reports leading the day.
Trump has expressed his desire for the prize throughout his presidency, and the White House released a statement celebrating his nomination early Wednesday afternoon. The statement, which referred to the accords as “the most significant step toward peace in the Middle East in more than a quarter of a century,” reflected Tybring-Gjedde’s post nominating the president.
“The agreement can open for lasting peace between several Arab countries and Israel,” Tybring-Gjedde wrote on Facebook. The Israel-UAE agreement, which is preliminary, seeks to normalize diplomatic relations between the two Middle Eastern nations, which are not at war.
In an interview with Fox News, Tybring-Gjedde argued that Trump had “broken a 39-year-old streak of American presidents either starting a war or bringing the United States into an international armed conflict,” adding that the “last president to avoid doing so was Peace Prize laureate Jimmy Carter.”
Tybring-Gjedde was one of two Norwegian lawmakers who previously submitted Trump’s name for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2018 after his first summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore — during which Trump and Kim signed a joint agreement committing to the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in declared in 2018 that Trump “should win the Nobel Peace Prize” for his efforts to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula and his role in talks between Moon and Kim. Trump responded by saying Moon’s suggestion was “very nice” and “very generous.”
The relationship between Trump’s administration and Kim’s regime deteriorated in subsequent months, however, as Kim showed reluctance to surrender his nuclear capabilities. In a second summit with Kim last year in Hanoi, Vietnam, Trump walked away from negotiations aimed at striking a nuclear accord.
Trump claimed last February that Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe nominated him for a Nobel Peace Prize for his attempts to broker peace between North and South Korea, saying Abe had shown him “the most beautiful five-page letter” recommending Trump’s candidacy. Abe did not comment on whether he had indeed nominated Trump.
Trump celebrated his latest nomination Wednesday morning on Twitter, sharing several congratulatory messages from supporters including conservative radio host Mark Levin, Fox Business Network’s Lou Dobbs, and Republican congressional candidates Marjorie Taylor Greene and Lauren Boebert — who have both boosted the dangerous QAnon conspiracy theory.
McEnany also offered praise for the president, telling Fox News that his nomination was a “big deal” and “well-deserved” while misleadingly describing the Israel-UAE agreement as a “peace deal.”
“This president’s created peace around the world, drew down endless wars, and this is a president who is very much deserving of the Nobel Peace Prize,” she said, adding that “you cannot deny what has happened on President Trump’s watch.”
During her Wednesday news briefing, she said Trump’s foreign policy would always be one of “peace through strength” and that the president’s outsider perspective gave him novel insight to solve old problems.
Although Trump was similarly enthusiastic about his nomination, he seemingly thought it to be overdue, retweeting a message asking: “What took so long?”
Even before his 2016 White House run, Trump had criticized former President Barack Obama for winning the Nobel Peace Prize barely nine months into office in 2009, when Obama himself conceded he had not yet produced significant results.
Obama was awarded the distinction for his “extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy” and his support for nuclear arms reduction. Three other U.S. presidents also have won the Nobel Peace Prize: Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson and Jimmy Carter.
Last September, Trump railed against the Norwegian Nobel Committee — which is responsible for selecting the Peace Prize winners — after boasting about his ability to potentially broker a peace deal in the disputed region of Kashmir, between India and Pakistan.
Trump said he “would get a Nobel Prize for a lot of things if they give it out fairly, which they don’t,” and repeated his complaint that Obama was undeserving of the honor.
“They gave one to Obama immediately upon his ascent to the presidency, and he had no idea why he got it,” Trump said, adding: “You know what? That was the only thing I agreed with him on.”
There are currently 318 candidates for the Nobel Peace Prize for 2020, the fourth-highest number of candidates ever, according to the official website of the Nobel Prizes. Nominators qualified to submit candidates include a wide variety of figures from academia, government and other fields.
Despite his apparent fascination with the Nobel Prizes, Trump misspelled them and appeared to mistake the awards for journalism-related honors in April, when he attacked members of the media in a spree of since-deleted tweets.
“When will all of the ‘reporters’ who have received Noble Prizes for their work on Russia, Russia, Russia, only to have been proven totally wrong (and, in fact, it was the other side who committed the crimes), be turning back their cherished ‘Nobles’ so that they can be given to the REAL REPORTERS & JOURNALISTS who got it right,” Trump wrote, likely intending to refer to the Pulitzer Prizes.
“When will the Noble Committee Act?” Trump asked in another message, before seeking to shrug off his mocked tweets as a show of sarcasm.
“Does anybody get the meaning of what a so-called Noble (not Nobel) Prize is, especially as it pertains to Reporters and Journalists? Noble is defined as, ‘having or showing fine personal qualities or high moral principles and ideals,’” he wrote. “Does sarcasm ever work?”