“I would maybe think about that,” Mr. Trump told Axios. “Maduro would like to meet. And I’m never opposed to meetings — you know, rarely opposed to meetings.”
The White House moved quickly to clean up those off-message comments, and Mr. Trump himself insisted on Twitter that he would “only meet with Maduro to discuss one thing: a peaceful exit from power.”
In scripted messages like Friday’s, Mr. Trump has expressed nothing but solid support for Mr. Guaidó. In February, Mr. Trump welcomed him to the White House and hosted him as a special guest at his State of the Union address, where Mr. Trump vowed that Mr. Maduro’s “grip on tyranny will be smashed and broken.”
That is the version of Mr. Trump’s views much preferred by both the White House and his campaign aides, who hope to rally Florida’s Hispanic voters with a tough anti-Maduro message, especially the roughly 700,000 Cuban-Americans in the Miami area who mostly oppose Cuba’s government and its close ally Mr. Maduro, who supplies oil to Havana. A much smaller number of the thousands of Venezuelans in Florida, 50,000 by some estimates, are eligible to vote.
Mr. Bolton also recounts that Mr. Trump repeatedly expressed interest in invading Venezuela, an idea he has hinted at publicly, though not recently. Mr. Bolton writes that, in August 2018, the White House chief of staff at the time, John F. Kelly, told him that Mr. Trump “says it would be ‘cool’ to invade Venezuela.”
Expanding his message to include new condemnations of Cuba, which the president denounces for its communist government and for its support of Mr. Maduro, Mr. Trump sought on Friday to depict Mr. Biden as sympathetic to their socialist policies and as a vehicle for the American left to carry them out in the United States.
“Joe Biden and the radical left are trying to impose the same system — socialism-plus — in America,” Mr. Trump said. “Biden is a puppet of Bernie Sanders, A.O.C. and the radical left,” he added, using an acronym for the liberal Democratic representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York.