- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 3, 2019

The Finnish press Thursday were giving generally positive reviews for President Sauli Niinisto’s stoic but highly meme-worthy performance beside President Trump the day before at a pair of raucous sparring sessions between the U.S. president and the press over impeachment, Democratic perfidy and media corruption.

But there were also questions about how much work had been achieved in the private meetings the two leaders held: The English-language Helsinki Times noted that in the two hours before their memorable joint White House press conference supposedly set aside for talks on issues, Mr. Trump sent out 10 separate tweets from his Twitter account, denouncing “lowlife” Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff, “Do Nothing Democrats” and a new book claiming the president once mused about digging a snake- and alligator-filled moat along the Mexican border.

Briefing Finnish reporters later Wednesday, Mr. Niinisto insisted that serious issues had been discussed during the leaders’ private bilateral talks, including an airing of Mr. Trump’s take of the state of U.S.-European relations.

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“We heard some rather harsh words, as we also did in the press event,” Mr. Niinisto said, according to a Helsinki Times report. “That’s why I decided beforehand that I’d bring up the topic of trans-Atlantic relations. At least he didn’t reject the views that I expressed in that regard.”

The center-right prime minister, who has been in office since 2012, attracted intense scrutiny on social media as he appeared mostly quietly beside Mr. Trump for two combative sessions with reporters.

Many commentators said the Finnish leader was offering some subtle criticism of Mr. Trump when at one point he remarked, “Mr. President, you have a great democracy — keep it going.”

Some heard the remark as a harmless platitude, but others heard it as a dig.

“Is he subtweeting Trump to his face?” asked Daniel Drezner, a professor at Tufts University’s Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy.

Mr. Niinisto appears to have a talent for generating memorable remarks from Mr. Trump. The U.S. president cited his Finnish counterpart as the source for his theory that raking the forest floor was a way to prevent wildfires.

On a visit to the deadly California Camp fire of November 2018, Mr. Trump cited a conversation in which Mr. Niinisto had told him that Finland, as “a forest nation,” spent “a lot of time raking and cleaning and doing things. And they don’t have any problem” with major fires.

Mr. Niinisto later told a Finnish newspaper he and Mr. Trump did discuss forest management briefly but did not recall mentioning raking.

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