President Donald Trump didn’t know that Nepal and Bhutan were countries until an adviser told him, according to a new report from Politico.
Before Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited the White House last June, Trump met with national security aides and seemed confused by the two countries’ existence, according to two people briefed on the meeting who spoke to Politico:
“He didn’t know what those were. He thought it was all part of India,” said one person familiar with the meeting. “He was like, ‘What is this stuff in between and these other countries?'”
Here is a map of South Asia:
As you can see, Bhutan and Nepal are definitely their own countries.
According to the Politico report, Trump mispronounced Nepal as “nipple” and Bhutan as “button.” He also suggested that he could set up Modi with someone, after learning Modi is estranged from his wife.
(As a depressing aside, less than a year after Trump apparently learned Nepal is its own country, his administration ended temporary protected status for 9,000 Nepalese immigrants living in the United States, giving them just one year to figure out another way to legally stay or pack up and leave.)
I personally cannot verify the Politico report, which cites two unnamed sources, but I can say with certainty that Trump has very little understanding of world geography. Trump has, on several occasions, made up countries, confused one country for another, and not known whether something is a country or a city.
Here are just a few examples.
1. Trump made up the country of “Nambia”
Speaking before African leaders at the United Nations in September 2017, Trump twice referred to the made up country of “Nambia.”
“Nambia’s health system is increasingly self-sufficient,” he said at one point.
People wondered whether he meant to say Namibia, Zambia, or Gambia. “Nambia” is not a country.
A White House transcript later fixed Trump’s mistake, and made it clear that the president was trying to talk about Namibia, a country of about 2 million in southern Africa.
2. Trump confused Iraq and Syria, after bombing the latter
In April 2017, Trump authorized a missile strike in Syria, and 59 Tomahawk missiles hit an airbase controlled by the Syrian government. Just a few days later, he forgot which country the United States bombed.
In an interview with Fox Business Network, Trump retold the story of how he shared the news that night with Chinese President Xi Jinping, while the two were eating dessert.
“We had the most beautiful piece of chocolate cake that you’ve ever seen, and President Xi was enjoying it,” he said. “So what happens is I said, ‘We’ve just launched 59 missiles…heading to Iraq.'”
“Well, heading to Syria,” Fox Business Network editor Maria Bartiromo said, correcting him.
“Yes, heading toward Syria,” Trump said, after a brief pause.
Bartiromo did not ask Trump how he had confused the two countries.
3. Trump confused North and South Korea
In March, Trump told journalists that North Korea called him and asked to meet for discussions.
“It was headed for disaster and now we’re talking,” he said. “They, by the way, called up a couple of days ago; they said, ‘We would like to talk.’ And I said, ‘So would we, but you have to denuke.'”
Such a call would have been huge at the time, as it would have been the first direct outreach from North Korea. But in reality, Trump had had a conversation with South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who called to talk about developments regarding North Korea.
Since then, Trump has actually met with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, but left the meeting with very little to show for it.
4. Trump called Belgium “a beautiful city”
While still a candidate, Trump described life in different places in Europe at a campaign stop in Atlanta, Georgia.
“Belgium is a beautiful city,” he boldly declared in June 2016. Just a few months earlier, he had called Brussels a “hellhole.”
Belgium is a country of about 11 million in western Europe. Brussels is the capital of Belgium.
5. “I never knew we had so many countries.”
Trump said this during an official banquet in Tokyo, Japan in November 2017, shortly after being elected.
He made the comment while describing his relationship with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. He then referred to the calls he was getting from other world leaders.
“So my relationship with Shinzo got off to quite a rocky start because I never ran for office, and here I am. But I never ran, so I wasn’t very experienced,” he said. “And after I had won, everybody was calling me from all over the world. I never knew we had so many countries.”