US President Donald Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron planted a tree at the White House on April 23rd in a friendship ceremony. But the tree quickly went missing, and some people started to wonder if a conspiracy was afoot. But there’s no grand conspiracy. The tree, which was brought from France, is simply in quarantine.
A Reuters photographer was the first to notice that the tree was missing. Originally planted on the South Lawn of the White House, the spot is now just a patch of sickly yellow grass. The Associated Press even ran a story over the weekend asking what happened to the tree, because for some reason the White House wouldn’t say.
People on Twitter joked that perhaps the tree was sent to Gitmo, the US prison camp that has been continually denounced by international humanitarian organizations for torture. But the answer isn’t quite so gross.
What really happened to the tree? According to HuffPost’s French bureau, the oak sapling was “planted” in front of the media, but was removed to be quarantined under normal regulations for imported trees.
From HuffPost France (using Google Translate):
Contacted by HuffPost, a source at the Elysee Palace confirmed that the oak was doing well and that it had to finish its quarantine period. A period imposed by US Customs (US Customs, which depends on the Ministry of Agriculture) on any importation of plants, seeds and even land from abroad to avoid spreading diseases or importing species of invasive insects on American soil.
The French government also spoke on the record with Australian journalists overnight who were asking what happened to the tree—a special gift from President Macron that was taken from Belleau Wood in France where 2,000 American soldiers died during World War I.
“It was actually a special favor from Trump to France to be able to plant the tree the day of the president’s visit,” an unnamed official from Macron’s office told News Corp in Australia.
“Since then, it has returned to quarantine and will soon be replanted in the White House gardens,” the official said. “Don’t worry, the tree is doing very well.”
US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) oversees what plants are allowed into the United States to prevent the spread of foreign bugs and pathogens that could do damage to native plants and animals. According to the CBP website, any plant that enters the US must come with a “foreign phytosanitary certificate.”
CBP doesn’t take this kind of thing lightly. A woman from Minneapolis was recently slapped with a $500 fine for not declaring an apple that she got on her Delta flight from Paris. She didn’t even want the apple and offered to throw it away, but CBP agents didn’t care. They gleefully fined her anyway.
It’s not clear what kind of inspection President Macron’s tree underwent when it landed in the US, but the plant obviously got special treatment, as gifts from any foreign dignitary probably would.
The part that’s still unclear? Why is the White House not answering questions about what happened to the tree? According to the French government, the tree is simply going through the normal process of quarantine. But the Trump White House won’t answer any questions about it.
The Trump regime sure hasn’t been shy about proclaiming that humans need to go through “extreme vetting” to enter the United States. In fact, President Trump made an impassioned plea for his wall along the US-Mexico border at a rally on Saturday night. And the crowd was clear about saying who wasn’t welcome in the country.
Chants of “build the wall” and “U-S-A! U-S-A!” have become completely normal and expected at Trump rallies. But it’s not getting any less scary for vulnerable people who have to live under the racist Trump regime.