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Trump aides look into U.S. purchasing Greenland after directives from president

  • Author: Damian Paletta, The Washington Post
  • Updated: August 15
  • Published August 15

The brightly painted houses of Ilulissat, Greenland, stand in stark contrast to the green-and-gray tundra and bright white icebergs floating in the adjacent bay. (Dave Levinthal/Dallas Morning News/MCT)

WASHINGTON - President Donald Trump has pushed top aides to investigate whether the U.S. government can purchase the giant, ice-smothered island of Greenland, two people with direct knowledge of the directive said.

The presidential request has bewildered aides, some of whom continue to believe it isn't serious, but Trump has mentioned it for weeks. The two people with knowledge of the presidential demand spoke on the condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to reveal such White House planning.

As with many of Trump's internal musings, aides are waiting for more direction before they decide how seriously they should look into it.

Among the things that have been discussed is whether it is even legal, what the process would be for acquiring an island that has its own government and population, and where any money to purchase a giant landmass would originate.

Trump's interest in acquiring Greenland was first reported by the Wall Street Journal.

According to the Central Intelligence Agency's World Factbook, Greenland is 2.2 million square kilometers, with 1.7 million of that covered in ice. It has considerable natural resources, such as coal and uranium, but only 0.6 percent of the land is used for agriculture. It has around 58,000 residents, making it one of the world's smallest countries by population.

It is a self-governing country that is part of the kingdom of Denmark. Trump is scheduled to visit Denmark in two weeks.

Trump has touted his career as a real estate developer during the 2016 presidential campaign and made clear that he has retained an eye for real estate opportunities during his tenure in the White House. For example, he has said that North Korea could build famous hotels and resorts along its oceanfront properties, even though many foreigners are afraid to visit the country out of fear for their lives.

Typically, Congress must appropriate money before the White House can use it, but Trump has already shown a willingness to get around those restrictions.

It wouldn’t be the first time an American leader tried to buy the world’s largest island

In 1946, the U.S. proposed to pay Denmark $100 million to buy Greenland after flirting with the idea of swapping land in Alaska for strategic parts of the Arctic island.

Some on Thursday night responded to the news with incredulity; others, with support.

"This idea isn't as crazy as the headline makes it seem," Rep. Mike Gallagher, R-Wis., said in a tweet. "This a smart geopolitical move. The United States has a compelling strategic interest in Greenland, and this should absolutely be on the table."

Most, however, responded with mockery.

Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., shared a news story about Trump's idea and mused: "A Great place for his 'presidential' library."

And Jonah Goldberg, a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, tweeted that MAGA - the acronym for Trump’s “Make America Great Again” campaign slogan - is “an anagram of Make Greenland American Already.”

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The Washington Post’s Felicia Sonmez contributed to this report. Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.

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