Trump blasts French pres­i­dent at NATO meet­ing planned to show unity

Lodi News-Sentinel - - SPORTS - By Noah Bierman

LONDON — Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump lit into French Pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron on Tues­day, crit­i­ciz­ing com­ments the French leader made about NATO as “in­sult­ing” “very, very nasty,” and “very dis­re­spect­ful.”

Trump’s com­ments came hours be­fore he was sched­uled to meet with Macron at the start of a two-day lead­ers con­fer­ence of the North At­lantic Treaty Or­ga­ni­za­tion that is sup­posed to stress unity for an al­liance that is mark­ing its 70th an­niver­sary.

While Trump tar­geted Macron’s com­ments that ques­tioned NATO’s ef­fec­tive­ness — some­thing he has also done — he sug­gested that his greater ire stemmed from Macron’s threat to levy a 3% tax on tech com­pa­nies, in­clud­ing Amer­i­can gi­ants Face­book, Google and Ama­zon, a topic he and Macron have been at odds over for much of this year.

“If any­body’s go­ing to take ad­van­tage of the Amer­i­can com­pa­nies it’s go­ing to be us,” Trump said. “It’s not go­ing to be France.”

On an­other in­ter­na­tional eco­nomic is­sue, Trump con­tin­ued the slow walk­back of his state­ment from last week that the U.S. and China were close to re­solv­ing their trade war.

“I have no dead­line,” Trump said, sug­gest­ing that a new trade deal with the Chi­nese might not come un­til af­ter next year’s elec­tion. “The China trade deal is dependent on one thing: Do I want to make it?” he said.

Trump has made a habit of clash­ing pub­licly with al­lies and break­ing diplo­matic norms dur­ing in­ter­na­tional con­fer­ences, which fac­tored into NATO of­fi­cials’ de­ci­sion to keep this year’s lead­ers meet­ing short.

Trump ar­rived in London late Mon­day evening and is sched­uled to de­part on Wed­nes­day.

Trump an­swered ques­tions for more than 50 min­utes with re­porters dur­ing his ini­tial meet­ing here with Jens Stoltenber­g, NATO’s sec­re­tary-gen­eral, at the Win­field House, the of­fi­cial res­i­dence of the U.S. am­bas­sador in the United King­dom, lo­cated in Re­gent’s Park.

As Trump held forth on a va­ri­ety of is­sues in­clud­ing im­peach­ment, Rus­sia, China trade and North Korean mis­sile tests, Stoltenber­g mostly sat watch­ing, oc­ca­sion­ally in­ter­ject­ing a com­ment about the im­por­tance of unity.

In ad­di­tion to NATO of­fi­cials, Bri­tish po­lit­i­cal fig­ures and can­di­dates in next week’s par­lia­men­tary elec­tions have also wor­ried Trump would in­ter­fere in the cam­paign dur­ing his visit. Some con­ser­va­tives here fear that Trump’s as­so­ci­a­tion with Prime Min­is­ter Boris John­son, the Con­ser­va­tive Party leader, could hurt John­son with Bri­tish vot­ers.

Trump said he would stay out of the elec­tion, but praised John­son and in­sisted the two would be meet­ing, even though he does not have a one-on-one with the Bri­tish leader on his pub­lic sched­ule.

“I stay out of it,” Trump said. “I think Boris is very ca­pa­ble, and I think he’ll do a good job.”

Trump also said he “can work with any­body” when asked about Jeremy Cor­byn, the La­bor Party leader who is John­son’s chief op­po­nent.

Macron had stirred con­tro­versy last month, wor­ry­ing about NATO’s “brain death” in an in­ter­view with the Economist.

Iron­i­cally, the com­ments were spurred in large part by Trump’s “Amer­ica First” agenda and his over­all go-it-alone ap­proach in Syria and other global hot spots that have con­cerned Euro­pean al­lies about Amer­ica’s re­li­a­bil­ity.

Trump called NATO “ob­so­lete” dur­ing his cam­paign for pres­i­dent. But on Tues­day, he cast him­self as the al­liance’s de­fender, blam­ing Macron as an out­lier while tout­ing his own ef­forts to prod al­lies to in­crease the size of their de­fense budgets.

“No­body needs NATO more than France,” Trump said. “We ben­e­fit the least . ... That’s a very dan­ger­ous state­ment for them to make.”

He said the United States is help­ing Europe pro­tect against a foe “that may or may not be a foe,” re­fer­ring to Rus­sia. Trump took credit for push­ing NATO, which was founded to counter what was then the Soviet Union, to broaden its fo­cus to other threats.

“There are other foes out there also,” he said, fur­ther de-em­pha­siz­ing Rus­sian aggression.

Macron has tried more than other Euro­pean lead­ers to be­friend and flat­ter Trump. But like other al­lies, he has been frus­trated by Trump’s re­jec­tion of the Paris cli­mate ac­cord and the Iran nu­clear deal as well as his fights over trade. Trump has threat­ened to im­pose tar­iffs on wine and other French prod­ucts in re­tal­i­a­tion for France’s tech tax.

The pub­lic clash with an ally is hardly unusual for Trump, who has flouted diplo­matic norms ob­served by his pre­de­ces­sors. Dur­ing the same ses­sion, Trump also at­tacked do­mes­tic foes, some­thing prior pres­i­dents have usu­ally resisted while on for­eign soil.

“In Ger­many, they like Obama. The rea­son they like Obama be­cause Obama gave the ship away. He al­lowed them to take ev­ery­thing,” Trump said of his pre­de­ces­sor, Pres­i­dent Barack Obama. “They may not like me be­cause I’m rep­re­sent­ing us, and I rep­re­sent us strong. Pres­i­dent Obama did not rep­re­sent us strong.

“He gave ev­ery­thing away” to Europe, Trump said, with­out spec­i­fy­ing what he was talk­ing about. “We’re still pay­ing the price for what he did.”

He called Democrats lead­ing the im­peach­ment in­quiry against him “un­pa­tri­otic” and said they would be to blame if the probe causes “a cloud” on his ef­forts in­ter­na­tion­ally.

He said he would not ac­cept a cen­sure res­o­lu­tion that would con­demn his ac­tions in Ukraine while stop­ping short of re­mov­ing him.

“You don’t cen­sure some­body when they did noth­ing wrong,” he said. “They’re what you call an in­ves­ti­ga­tion in search of a crime.”

PETER SUM­MERS/GETTY IMAGES

Kur­dish protesters demon­strate at Trafal­gar Square in London, Eng­land on Tues­day.

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