Welcome to your special Sunday edition of POLITICO’s West Wing Playbook, your guide to the people and power centers in the Biden administration. With help from Allie Bice.
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The most critical factor in whether a presidential foreign visit is successful is President JOE BIDEN himself.
Perhaps the second most important is CHARLIE FROMSTEIN.
The behind-the-scenes director of visits and diplomatic affairs at the National Security Council, Fromstein is the administration’s point person negotiating every last detail of any presidential foreign trip including Biden’s current one to Japan and Korea this week.
And we mean every last detail: where the president visits, where the president walks when he visits, which door the president walks into and out of, who gets to greet the president first at each stop, the length of each meeting down to the minute, who attends each meeting and in what room, how interpretation will work, the food and beverages served, and how close reporters can get… to name a few.
Essentially, Fromstein is in-between the policy staffers setting the goals of the trip and the advance people who have to execute it all.
For Biden’s current trip, Fromstein traveled with other staffers to South Korea and Japan weeks ahead of time to scout locations. After a tip from the embassy in South Korea, he went to one of the Samsung campuses and administration officials say he argued internally that Biden should go there to highlight tech and economic partnership. Ultimately, it became Biden’s first stop.
Other times, Fromstein must become the de-facto diplomat with other countries on these small but important details. In the weeks ahead of Biden’s meeting with the President of the Republic of Korea YOON SUK-YEOL At The People’s House in Seoul, South Korean officials did not want reporters or advance staffers to bring any non-Samsung smartphones into the building.
American White House reporters are largely an iPhone crowd, so this became a delicate back-and-forth in the weeks preceding the meeting. One compromise proposal included having reporters stick non-clear tape over their iPhone cameras before entering the building. Ultimately, reporters were able to use their phones in the auditorium of the press conference but were asked not to use them while walking the halls.
Fromstein is not a newbie to this world. In fact, he had the same NSC job during the latter half of the Obama administration, coordinating the logistics on trips like BARACK OBAMA‘s historic visit to Cuba. NSC’s chief of staff YOHANNES ABRAHAMto whom Fromstein reports, coaxed him into coming back to his old job.
In addition to his experience during the Obama administration, he had a resume line that made him a natural fit: he was one of Biden’s schedulers in the vice presidential office. As we have previously reported, Being a Biden scheduler is a uniquely challenging job.
A White House official noted that just days before the trip to Asia, Fromstein was trying to figure out which entrance the leaders of Finland and Sweden should walk into to be greeted at the White House given that he coordinates meetings with foreign leaders at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. as well.
“The thing that really makes him special – and beloved – is that he knows how to wield the logistical elements of planning to support policy,” said one senior White House official. “He knows where and when to push or give in order to best support policy objectives.”
In keeping with his preferred behind-the-scenes nature, Fromstein declined to comment.
WEST WING PLAYBOOK GOES ON THE ROAD: Alex is on Biden’s first trip to Asia as president. Anything about the trip we are missing or we should point out? Text / Signal / Wickr Alex at 8183240098.
TEXT US – ARE YOU NARENDRA MODI, the prime minister of India who will be joining Biden in Japan this week? We want to hear from you. And we’ll keep you anonymous.
Or if you think we missed something in today’s edition, let us know and we may include it tomorrow. Email us at [email protected].
Talking money today – what was GEORGE WASHINGTON‘s presidential salary?
(Answer at the bottom.)
RAHMAPALOOZA: Biden greeted US Ambassador to Japan RAHM EMANUEL with a big hug when he landed in Japan today. Emanuel also appeared to coax the president into making an unannounced stop at his residence this evening since it’s across the street from Biden’s hotel.
Emanuel and his wife AMY RULE showed the president two Delaware peach blossom trees planted just outside the dining room at the ambassador’s residence, along with a plaque dedicating them to the president. Emanuel has also planted an American holly, which we were told is an important tree in Delaware, in the residence garden.
GOOD CATHOLIC: Biden attended a private mass Sunday morning at the Grand Hyatt in Seoul along with other White House staff. We asked for more details, like who the priest was, but the White House didn’t comment.
STATE DINNER MENU: The menu for the state dinner with Biden and President Yoon included black sesame tofu, pine mushroom porridge, water kimchi, dumplings wrapped in cabbage, sous-vide beef ribs, bibimbap and tofu ball soup, along with cold green plum tea.
Yes, we’re salivating just a bit.
HOOPS FAN: Yesterday as the US and South Korean delegations casually mingled with each other ahead of the expanded bilateral meeting, NPR’s ASMA KHALID spotted a member of the South Korean delegation checking for updates on his phone of the Warrior-Mavericks NBA playoff game.
OVERHEARD: Biden’s joint press conference with President Yoon was very carefully scripted with only four reporters permitted to ask questions – two from the US and two from the Republic of Korea. Afterwards, one American reporter quipped: “Long way to come for that. ”
ALSO OVERHEARD: New York Times photographer DOUG MILLS blasting Robert Palmer’s “Addicted to Love” on his laptop in the press holding room for everyone to hear.
When you’re the GOAT, you can listen to whatever the hell you want.
BRING A BOOK: An important update on the broken Wi-Fi on the charter press plane that frustrated many reporters and White House aides on the flight to Korea: It’s still broken, according to reporters who flew on it to Japan Sunday.
ALMOST LOST TO HISTORY: CNN’s KAITLAN COLLINS asked Biden a follow-up question Sunday about if he had a message to North Korean leader KIM JONG-UN. “Hello,” Biden said, before pausing a bit and adding: “Period.”
While reporters were able to hear the president, clear audio and video were almost lost because the US government cut off Biden’s microphone feed prematurely. Some of the mics still caught the response in a way that was usable with subtitles. But the government cutting off the audio early has been a frequent source of frustration for reporters.
TYPO OF THE DAY: White House print pooler ZOLAN KANNO-YOUNGS wrote about “monkey paws” instead of “monkeypox.”
OUCH: CBS ‘ STEVE PORTNOY was making a special effort to thank a US soldier while getting off the helicopter today, but he distracted himself and missed the step off. The pavement won that battle but Steve soldiered on the rest of the day.
GUY LOVES ICE CREAM: While visiting troops, Biden quickly went back for seconds on ice cream – he got chocolate chip the first time, and returned for chocolate and vanilla combined, for an exclusive interview with the ice cream scooper.
Biden pushes economic, security aims as he ends SKorea visit (AP’s Josh Boak and Aamer Madhani)
In South Korea, Biden Seeks to Rebuild Economic Ties Across Asia (NYT’s Zolan Kanno-Youngs and Peter Baker)
Biden in Japan to launch regional economic plan to counter Beijing (Reuters’ Trevor Hunnicutt and Yoshifumi Takemoto)
‘Quad’ security group plans system to track illegal fishing by China (Financial Times’ Demetri Sevastopulo)
Biden visit tests new South Korean president, a foreign policy novice (WaPo’s Michelle Ye Hee Lee)
Biden Keeps Eye on Domestic Politics as He Travels Through Asia (WSJ’s Andrew Restuccia and Ken Thomas)
Biden Says US Prepared for Possible North Korea Nuclear Test (Bloomberg’s Jennifer Jacobs)
Biden offers message for Kim Jong Un as he wraps first leg of his Asia trip (CNN’s Kevin Liptak)
TREVOR REED will be on CNN this evening at 8 pm ET. One person with knowledge told West Wing Playbook that Reed is expected to appear in multiple interviews this week, and will likely discuss his experience detained in Russia, and the Biden administration’s response to detentions abroad.
Biden delivered remarks on Hyundai’s decision to invest in a new electric vehicle and battery manufacturing facility in Savannah, Ga. It took place at the Grand Hyatt Seoul in Seoul.
The president also met with staff of the US Embassy in Seoul at Dragon Hill Lodge.
He traveled back to Pyeongtaek, South Korea, where he visited and delivered remarks at the Air Operations Center’s Combat Operations Floor on Osan Air Base. He also met with service members and military families at the air base.
In the evening, he traveled to Tokyo.
She has no public events scheduled.
National Security Adviser JAKE SULLIVAN confessed in an interview back in 2017 that he can catch up on sleep really well – like really well.
“I could sleep like a champion, I could go beyond 12 hours from time to time,” he told Harvard’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs. “The very longest I’ve slept is actually going all the way back to college when I pulled a string of all-nighters to put out issues of the student newspaper at Yale … [It was] the spring of my sophomore year and I slept for 21 and a half hours straight. “
It was “bizarre and disclocating,” he added. “Not something I want to repeat.”
He may need to repeat it after this trip, though. Like most people traveling with the president, he’s looking a little sleepy.
When GEORGE WASHINGTON took office in 1789, The salary of the president was $ 25,000.
A CALL OUT – Think you have a more difficult one? Send us your best question on the presidents with a citation and we may feature it.
Edited by Eun Kyung Kim and Sam Stein