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US to Greenland: With Trump gone, we're no longer trying to buy you

Donald Trump sparked an international incident with a plan to try to buy Greenland. The Biden administration is still cleaning up the mess.
An iceberg floats past a village in Greenland.
An iceberg floats past a village in Greenland.NBC News

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken traveled to Greenland this week after attending a meeting of the Arctic Council in Iceland. The American diplomat said the trip reflected the Biden administration's intention to enhance ties with "our Arctic partners," including Greenland.

But because politics in the United States took some unfortunate turns in recent years, Blinken also had to clear up a lingering issue as part of the diplomatic effort. Reuters reported yesterday:

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Thursday confirmed that the United States does not seek to buy Greenland, after then-President Donald Trump had proposed buying the island, sparking diplomatic fallout. Sitting beside Danish Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod, Greenland's premier, Mute Egede, and Foreign Minister Pele Broberg during a news conference, Blinken confirmed to a reporter it was "correct" that the United States does not seek to buy the country.

When I took a little time off in 2019 to write a book, there were a handful of political stories I wasn't able to write about, several of which I was eager to cover. At the top of the list was Donald Trump's apparently serious desire to, in a literal sense, purchase Greenland.

The Wall Street Journal first reported in August 2019, and NBC News confirmed, that the then-Republican president held multiple discussions about the prospects of buying the country of Greenland.

Miles Taylor, a former Department of Homeland Security chief of staff who became a fierce Trump critic, later told MSNBC that in 2018, the then-president explored the possibility of swapping Greenland for Puerto Rico.

None of this sat well with Danish officials -- Greenland is an autonomous Danish territory -- who explained to the White House that Greenland is not actually for sale and the idea was "absurd." Around the same time, officials in Greenland made clear they weren't altogether pleased, either.

Because Trump is Trump, the Republican responded the way he always does: with a tantrum. As the New York Times reported, "Mr. Trump, angered at the Danish response to his idea, abruptly canceled a diplomatic visit to Denmark." The then-U.S. leader then described Mette Frederiksen, the prime minister of Denmark, as "nasty," sparking an international incident.

All of that unpleasantness is now behind us, and Antony Blinken has apparently resolved any lingering ill will. But the fact that the Biden administration is having to deal with such nonsense is a reminder of just how much damage the former president did to the United States' credibility and stature.