Before Trump's Taliban invitation, Camp David had a long diplomatic legacy

Trump's invitation to the Taliban adds to the mountain retreat's long history.

Camp David's legacy has long been more than a mountainside getaway for presidents. President Ronald Reagan hiked its forested paths with British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. President Jimmy Carter helped negotiate the 1978 Camp David Accords between Israel and Egypt. And President Barack Obama hosted the 38th G-8 summit there in 2012.


Located near Washington in Maryland's Catoctin Mountain Park, Camp David became a presidential retreat during Franklin Roosevelt's administration. Built with funds provided by the Works Progress Administration in 1935, Roosevelt named the residence Shangri-La after the fictional Himalayan paradise.

While President Harry Truman made the forested hideaway an official presidential residence in 1945, his successor, Dwight Eisenhower, gave the retreat its current name, christening it after his grandson, David.

Originally a retreat for federal employees, Camp David has expanded considerably since its designation as a presidential residence. In addition to new amenities like extra cabins, a basketball court, and a swimming pool, the hideaway also doubles as a military installation with rotating battalions there to keep the president safe.


Over the years, Camp David has hosted several key diplomatic meetings between U.S. allies and adversaries alike.

In 1959, President Dwight D. Eisenhower met Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev there during the height of the Cold War, agreeing to further cultural exchanges and trade.

Almost twenty years later, in 1978, President Jimmy Carter brought Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin and Egyptian President Anwar el-Sadat to the retreat to negotiate the 1978 Camp David Accords.

President Bill Clinton followed suit in 2000, inviting Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat to Maryland for a series of failed talks.

More recently, in 2012, Obama hosted the annual G8 summit at Camp David. Taking a break from talks, the world leaders watched the Champions' League soccer final where the English team Chelsea defeated the German Bayern Munich.

Despite Camp David’s diplomatic history, Trump surprised many observers with his announcement that he had planned a summit with Taliban leaders at the residence just days before the 18th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. That included House Republican Caucus Chairperson Rep. Liz Cheney who tweeted on Sunday, "No member of the Taliban should set foot there. Ever."

However, members of Trump's administration have defended the plan. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos on "This Week" that "there have been some pretty bad actors" who have visited the retreat in the past.

Policy and Strategy

In the months before D-Day, Roosevelt met with British Prime Minister Winston Churchill on one of the cabins' porches to plan the World War II offensive.

Almost 20 years later, in 1961, John F. Kennedy invited his predecessor, Eisenhower, to Camp David to ask for advice on how to proceed after the botched Bay of Pigs invasion.

And in her tweet Sunday criticizing the invitation to the Taliban, Cheney pointed out that President George W. Bush went to Camp David to plan the American response to the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.

Trump and Camp David

Trump rarely has used Camp David, preferring his private vacation homes, such as, Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida, and the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey. He first visited the Maryland retreat for Father's Day in 2017 with first lady Melania Trump and their son, Barron.

Trump told a German reporter in 2017 that Camp David, "is very rustic, it's nice, you'd like it. You know how long you'd like it? For about 30 minutes."

The same year, he used Camp David to prepare for the 2018 midterm elections, inviting congressional Republican leaders to discuss the GOP's strategy.

He also returned to the Maryland getaway this year, where acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney held a weekend retreat with senior White House staff. Trump joined the team and led meetings on that Sunday.