Trump plays golf after cancelling trip to Poland to observe Second World War anniversary commemorations

Joe Sommerlad
Supporters of US President Donald Trump hold banners as they attend commemorations marking 80 years since the outbreak of World War II on September 1, 2019 at Pilsudski Square in Warsaw, Poland: AFP/Getty Images
Supporters of US President Donald Trump hold banners as they attend commemorations marking 80 years since the outbreak of World War II on September 1, 2019 at Pilsudski Square in Warsaw, Poland: AFP/Getty Images

US president Donald Trump is under fire after finding time to play golf after he cancelled his trip to Poland to observe commemorative services remembering the onset of the Second World War.

President Trump was initially understood to be abandoning his visit to Europe in order to monitor the federal response to Hurricane Dorian as it approaches the southeastern coast of the US, but instead he flew from the presidential retreat of Camp David in Maryland to the Trump National Golf Club in Potomac Falls, Virginia, on Saturday.

The decision to play 18 holes marks the 226th day Mr Trump has done so since entering the Oval Office, a habit that has attracted persistent criticism over the cost incurred by taxpayers.

White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham insisted he received hourly updates on the tropical storm zeroing in on Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas as he progressed around the course: “He has someone travelling with him to specifically brief him on an hourly basis.”

The president has since tweeted that he has been briefed about the latest mass shooting in Odessa, Texas, by attorney general William Barr and is expected to attend a meeting on Dorian at the headquarters of the Federal Emergency Management Agency headquarters back in Washington, DC.

In Poland, the country’s president Andrzej Duda was joined by his German counterpart Frank-Walter Steinmeier to open day-long observances of the 80th anniversary of Nazi Germany‘s invasion of the Central European nation in 1939 with a ceremony intended to reflect a spirit of reconciliation.

​Poland would remain under German occupation for more than five years and lost around six million citizens in the conflict. Today, Germany is one of Poland’s closest EU trading partners.

The memorial was held in Wielun, a central Polish town that was the first target of the Nazi’s deadly bombings, with observances starting at 4.40am, the exact hour that the war’s first bombs fell. The presidents, local officials and residents, among them survivors of the bombings, observed a minute’s silence in memory of that first attack’s estimated 2,000 victims.

Speaking in German and Polish, Mr Steinmeier asked for forgiveness on behalf of Berlin.

“I bow my head before the victims of the attack in Wielun, I bow my head before the Polish victims of German tyranny and I ask forgiveness,” he said. “We are deeply grateful for Poland’s hand extended in a gesture of forgiveness.”

“As the president of Germany I want to assure you that we will not forget, we will always remember about this, we want to remember and we are taking this responsibility that our history has imposed on us,” he continued.

Mr Duda thanked Mr Steinmeier for attending and said it was a form of giving “moral satisfaction.”

“Mr President, thank you for your presence and your attitude,” Mr Duda said. “I can see a man who has come with humility, a bowed head in order to pay homage... to share the pain.”

“Do you, gathered here, think it is easy to come to the town that has been destroyed by the Germans? To look in the eyes of those who have survived?” Mr Duda asked of those attending.

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Minutes later, Polish prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki and EU senior official Frans Timmermans led observances at Westerplatte Peninsula on the Baltic coast, the site of the war’s first battle as Polish troops put up resistance.

Unlike the commander-in-chief, US vice president Mike Pence was in attendance, as was German chancellor Angela Merkel, with many other world leaders expected to attend the day’s main event in Warsaw.

Additional reporting by AP