The storm around US President Donald Trump is about to shift a few kilometers west of the White House, to a conference center in Chantilly, Virginia, where the president is to be graded by Bilderberg.
The secretive three-day summit of the political and economic elite was to begin yesterday in heavily guarded seclusion at the Westfields Marriot, a luxury hotel a short distance from the Oval Office.
The hotel was already on lockdown on Wednesday and an army of landscapers have been busy planting fir trees around the perimeter to try protect coy billionaires and bashful bank bosses from prying lenses.
Perched at the top of the conference agenda this year are these words: “The Trump Administration: A progress report.”
Is the president going to be put in detention for tweeting in class? Held back a year? Or told to empty his locker and leave? If ever there was a place where a president could hear the words “you’re fired,” it is Bilderberg.
The White House is sending along some big hitters: Trump's national security adviser, Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster; US Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross and Trump strategist Chris Liddell.
The US president’s chiding of NATO leaders in Brussels is sure to be chewed over at Bilderberg, which takes its name from the hotel in the Netherlands where the conference first met in 1954.
The Bilderbergers have summoned NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg to give feedback.
Stoltenberg is to lead a session on “The Trans-Atlantic defense alliance: bullets, bytes and bucks.”
He is to be joined by the Dutch minister of defense and senior European politicians and party leaders, all hoping to reset the transatlantic relationship after Trump’s visit.
Also on the invitation list for this year’s conference is IMF managing director Christine Lagarde and the Dutch king, but perhaps the most significant name on the list is Chinese Ambassador to the US Cui Tiankai (崔天凱).
According to the meeting’s agenda, “China” will be discussed at a summit attended by Cui, Ross, McMaster, two US senators, the governor of Virginia, two former heads of the CIA and giant US investors in China, including the heads of financial services firms Carlyle Group and KKR, as well as Alphabet Inc executive chairman Eric Schmidt.
Schmidt has just returned from a trip to Beijing, where he was overseeing Google AI’s latest game of Go against humans.
He said it was “a pleasure to be back in China, a country that I admire a great deal.”
It is possible that three days chatting to the Chinese ambassador could even be good for business.
So will Trump be given his marching orders at Bilderberg, or will he be kept on? There is a small, but worrying clue for what Bilderberg might have in mind for Trump tucked away on the invitation list: One of the guests this year is former head of the UK defense staff Nicholas Houghton. His new role? Constable of the Tower of London.
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