Trump in Europe, says Putin ‘easiest’ of his meetings
BRUSSELS — With Europe’s wary eyes upon him, President Donald Trump launched a weeklong trip there on Tuesday with harsh criticism for NATO allies and predicted the “easiest” leg of his journey would be his scheduled sitdown with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
As he departed the White House for a four-nation European tour, Trump did little to reassure allies fretting over the risk of damage he could do to the 69-year-old trans-Atlantic mutual defense pact and his potential embrace of Putin during a summit in Helsinki.
Trump said Tuesday he “can’t say right now” if Putin is a friend or foe, but called him a “competitor.” The U.S. intelligence community has concluded that Russia interfered in the 2016 election to boost Trump’s candidacy, and warns of further attempts at interference both in the 2018 midterms and in European elections.
Trump arrived in Brussels on the eve of the NATO summit after repeated attacks on the pact. He told reporters in Washington before leaving that “Frankly it helps them a lot more than it helps us” and then later tweeted from Air Force One that he may demand reimbursements from the European member nations.
Trump has been pressing NATO countries to fulfill their goal of spending that 2 percent of their gross domestic products on defense by 2024. During his presidential campaign, he suggested he might only come to the defense of NATO nations that fulfilled their obligation. And a year ago, during his first visit to its Belgium headquarters, Trump initially declined to explicitly support the organization’s defense agreement.
Trump will later head to London, where Prime Minister Theresa May’s government is in turmoil over her plans for exiting the European Union.
European Council President Donald Tusk said on Tuesday in a message to Trump that “it is always worth knowing who is your strategic friend and who is your strategic problem.” Tusk recalled that the Europeans are spending more than Russia and as much as China on defense. NATO estimates that 15 members, or just over half, will meet the benchmark by 2024 based on current trends.
“Getting ready to leave for Europe. First meeting — NATO. The U.S. is spending many times more than any other country in order to protect them,” Trump tweeted Tuesday morning, adding: “Not fair to the U.S. taxpayer. On top of that we lose $151 Billion on Trade with the European Union. Charge us big Tariffs (& Barriers)!”
On Monday he’d tweeted the situation was “not fair, nor is it acceptable,” and insisted that NATO benefits Europe “far more than it does the U.S.”
He added: “NATO countries must pay MORE, the United States must pay LESS. Very Unfair!”
Trump, who has compared the sentiment that underpinned the Brexit vote to leave the EU to his own election, will be making his maiden presidential trip to Britain at a fraught time for May. Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and Brexit Secretary David Davis resigned within hours of each other in protest of her plan.
Trump’s visit is expected to attract large protests in London and elsewhere in Britain.
Trump’s weeklong trip to Europe will continue with a stop in Scotland before ending with a sit-down in Helsinki with Putin.
He said that of the highstakes meetings of his trip, “Putin may be the easiest of them all.”
WASHINGTON — The Trump administration is readying tariffs on another $200 billion in Chinese imports, ranging from burglar alarms to mackerel, escalating a trade war between the world’s two biggest economies.
The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative proposed 10 percent tariffs Tuesday on a list of 6,031 Chinese product lines.
The office will accept public comments and hold hearings on the plan Aug. 20-23 before reaching a decision after Aug. 31, according to a senior administration official who briefed reporters on condition of anonymity.
Last Friday, the U.S. imposed 25 percent tariffs on $34 billion in Chinese products, and Beijing responded by hitting the same amount of U.S. imports.
The administration said the new levies are a response to China’s decision to retaliate against the first round of U.S. tariffs.
Baby killed, dozens hurt when tornado hits North Dakota city
WATFORD CITY, N.D. — A newborn baby was killed and more than two dozen people were injured when a tornado whipped through a North Dakota oil patch city overnight, overturning recreational vehicles and demolishing more than 100 structures, officials said Tuesday.
The storm moved through Watford City, in the northwestern part of the state, shortly after midnight, hitting an RV park the hardest, according to sheriff’s officials. About 20 of the reported 28 injured were staying at the Prairie View RV Park where high winds overturned some campers and damaged mobile homes.
McKenzie County Sheriff Gary Schwartzenberger told The Bismarck Tribune late Tuesday that a oneweek-old boy died from injuries sustained when the family’s trailer home flipped in the storm.
National Weather Service meteorologist John Paul Martin classified the tornado as an EF2, which is defined by winds speeds between 111 and 135 mph.
Video shows moment of Clooney crash, actor thrown in air
OLBIA, Sardinia — Actor George Clooney slammed his motorbike into an oncoming car that turned suddenly into his lane Tuesday and was thrown several meters (yards) in the air on the Italian island of Sardinia, according to video of the crash.
“He is recovering at his home and will be fine,” Clooney spokesman Stan Rosenfield said.
Surveillance video of the crash, apparently taken by a fixed security video, was obtained late Tuesday by the newspaper Corriere della Sera. It shows a blue Mercedes veering into oncoming traffic apparently to