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Trump Mars Unity Message at NATO       12/05 06:24

   Aiming to play the role of global statesman as the impeachment drama was 
unfolding in Washington, President Donald Trump instead shattered NATO's 
professed message of unity at its 70th anniversary celebration in England and 
put his personal and policy differences with alliance members on stark display.

   WATFORD, England (AP) -- Aiming to play the role of global statesman as the 
impeachment drama was unfolding in Washington, President Donald Trump instead 
shattered NATO's professed message of unity at its 70th anniversary celebration 
in England and put his personal and policy differences with alliance members on 
stark display.

   Trump called Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau "two-faced" and French 
President Emanuel Macron "nasty" during a 52-hour trip that exposed the 
alliance's divisions on military budgets and relations with Turkey, as well as 
the U.S. leader's own unconventional ways on the world stage. 

   At the same time, he found it difficult to leave behind events in 
Washington, lashing out as House Democrats resumed their push for impeachment 
over Trump's call for Ukraine to investigate a political rival. He said it was 
"sad" that Democrats were pushing ahead with the inquiry when "there was no 
crime whatsoever and they know it."

   Trump, looking to showcase foreign policy wins as he heads into an election 
year, offered a more optimistic outlook for NATO's future. He took credit for 
boosting the share of NATO nations that are meeting the alliance's goal of 
spending 2% of gross domestic on defense and sought to pressure more countries 
to increase their military budgets. But he also put a spotlight on his 
administration's lingering to-do list: ending a China trade war he instigated, 
passing the U.S.-Mexico-Canada agreement as well as trade deals with the 
European Union and Britain. 

   A day after Trudeau was overheard gossiping about Trump during a reception 
at Buckingham Palace, Trump called the Canadian leader "two-faced." In an 
unguarded conversation, Trudeau told leaders, including Macron and British 
Prime Minister Boris Johnson, that "he takes a 40-minute press conference off 
the top," an apparent reference to Trump's long and unscheduled 
question-and-answer session with journalists earlier that day. Trudeau also 
said, seemingly about his meeting with Trump, "You just watched his team's jaws 
drop to the floor."

   Trump fired back during a Wednesday afternoon meeting with German Chancellor 
Angela Merkel. He suggested that the Canadian's overheard comments were 
precipitated by Trump's decision to highlight the fact that Canada falls short 
of NATO goals on defense spending.

   "The truth is that I called him out on the fact that he's not paying 2% and 
I guess he's not very happy about it," Trump said. Later, seeming to relish the 
spat, Trump remarked, "That was funny when I said that guy was two-faced."

   Relations between Trump and Macron, once the American president's closest 
European ally, deteriorated a day earlier in feisty exchanges on live 
television. 

   First, Trump slammed what he called "very, very nasty" comments by Macron, 
who had lamented NATO's "brain death" under Trump's leadership of the U.S. 
Then, in a later meeting on the sidelines of the summit, Macron rebuked Trump 
over his insistence that Europe repatriate its citizens who fought with the 
Islamic State group, as well as his unilateral decision to withdraw American 
troops from northeast Syria.

   Trump's shift on Syria had cleared the way for a Turkish assault on Kurdish 
fighters who had been allied with the west in the fight against IS militants. 
There was more disagreement between Trump and European leaders over Turkey. 
Macron, in particular, wanted the alliance to do more to confront Turkish 
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan over his incursion into Syria and his purchase 
of Russian surface-to-air missiles.

   On Wednesday, Trump falsely claimed that Macron had taken back his comments 
about NATO's "brain death," even though the French leader said he stood by them.

   It was far from the only inconsistency highlighted during two days of 
summitry.

   Trump, who has celebrated every new stock market high, claimed that he 
didn't pay too much heed to the market after stocks tumbled following his 
remarks that a China trade deal may not come until after Election Day. He also 
claimed it was his decision not to more quickly reach an agreement with China, 
as relations have soured over U.S. support for pro-Democracy protests in Hong 
Kong. Previously, Trump had said it was China that would rather wait for the 
election results.

   Trump also declared NATO to be the healthiest it's ever been even as the 
alliance is grappling with fundamental questions about its funding and whether 
its requirement for mutual defense still makes sense as it confronts threats 
that now extend beyond Russia to a rising China and international terrorism.

   Trump has resisted some European efforts to put more pressure on Erdogan, 
whom he met with on the sidelines of the summit. The president praised the 
Turkish leader despite widespread calls in Washington and Europe for the 
Turkish government to suffer consequences for its actions in Syria and decision 
to buy the Russian air defense system.

   The president abruptly canceled a news conference that would have played out 
at the same time as the impeachment hearing in Washington. But he insisted he's 
unconcerned about the inquiry, with Democrats facing a mountainous climb to 
remove Trump from office. While Democrats hold the majority in the House, 
Republicans control the Senate and not one GOP lawmaker in the upper chamber 
has signaled support for ousting Trump. An impeachment conviction in the Senate 
would require 67 votes out of 100.

   Still, Trump lashed out at Democratic lawmakers for scheduling the hearing 
while he was overseas and predicted low ratings for testimony from 
constitutional experts.

   "These people, you almost question whether or not they love our country," 
Trump said of the Democrats.

   Democrats argue that Trump acted improperly when he pressed Ukraine 
President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to open an investigation of former Vice President 
Joe Biden and his son's dealings in the eastern European nation. Hunter Biden 
sat on the board of a Ukrainian energy company.

   During his meeting with Merkel, Trump told reporters he didn't know why his 
personal attorney Rudy Giuliani was speaking with the White House Office of 
Management and Budget --- a revelation that was included in phone records 
published in the House Intelligence Committee's impeachment report.

   "I really don't know," he said. Trump encouraged reporters to ask Giuliani 
about the calls, but insisted they are "no big deal."

   Trump has frequently criticized NATO members for falling well short in doing 
their financial part through the first three years of his presidency, and he 
was eager to take credit for recent increases in defense spending by alliance 
members.

   After a NATO summit last year, he called for members to devote at least 4% 
of GDP to military spending and took particular aim at Merkel, whom he accused 
of paying Russia '"billions of dollars for gas and energy" while failing to 
meet her nation's commitment on defense spending.

   At this year's summit, he told reporters, "I don't think, frankly, before 
us, that NATO was changing at all, and NATO is really changing right now.''

   But while NATO leaders emphasized unity, Trump convened his own sub-group of 
the alliance --- limited to only those who had met the defense spending target.

   "We call them affectionately those two percent-ers," he said of the nine 
nations assembled out of the soon-to-be 30-member alliance. "So this is a lunch 
that's on me."

   Trump returned to the White House Wednesday night.


(KR)

 
 
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