Theresa May: Trump told me to sue the EU

Donald Trump told Theresa May she should sue the EU rather than negotiate over Brexit, she has told the BBC.

The US president said on Friday at a joint news conference he had given Mrs May a suggestion – but she had found it too “brutal”.

Asked by the BBC’s Andrew Marr what it was he said, she replied: “He told me I should sue the EU – not go into negotiations.”

It came as another government member resigned over her Brexit plans.

Robert Courts said he quit as a Parliamentary Private Secretary – an unpaid Parliamentary aide – at the foreign office to “express discontent” with Mrs May’s policy before key Brexit votes on Monday.

“I had to think who I wanted to see in the mirror for the rest of my life,” he said in tweet.

He could not tell his constituents he supported Mrs May’s proposals “in their current form,” he added.

Mr Courts replaced David Cameron as the Conservative MP for Witney, Oxfordshire in 2016.

[BBC]

“I think the European Union is a foe,” Trump says ahead of Putin meeting in Helsinki

Coming off a contentious NATO summit and a trip to the U.K. in which he seemed to undercut the government of America’s closest ally, President Trump took aim at another Western institution just days before his high-stakes meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

In an interview with “CBS Evening News” anchor Jeff Glor in Scotland on Saturday, President Trump named the European Union — comprising some of America’s oldest allies — when asked to identify his “biggest foe globally right now.”

“Well, I think we have a lot of foes. I think the European Union is a foe, what they do to us in trade. Now, you wouldn’t think of the European Union, but they’re a foe. Russia is foe in certain respects. China is a foe economically, certainly they are a foe. But that doesn’t mean they are bad. It doesn’t mean anything. It means that they are competitive,” Mr. Trump said at his golf club in Turnberry, Scotland.

“I respect the leaders of those countries. But, in a trade sense, they’ve really taken advantage of us and many of those countries are in NATO and they weren’t paying their bills,” he added.

On Sunday, British Prime Minister Theresa May told the BBC that Mr. Trump had encouraged her to “sue the EU” rather than negotiate over the U.K.’s departure from the bloc. May’s conservative government is deeply split over her handling of Brexit, and her hold on power was further weakened by Mr. Trump’s comments to a British tabloid that her approach had likely “killed” any chance of a new trade deal with the U.S. once Brexit is complete. (Mr. Trump tried to walk back his criticism in a joint press conference on Friday.)

At the summit of NATO allies in Brussels last week, Mr. Trump took a hard line toward member nations for failing to meet targeted defense spending goals. He claimed his tough stance had paid off in getting allies to spend more on defense, telling reporters on Thursday that members had “upped their commitments and I am very happy.”

The president kicked off the NATO summit by blasting Germany as “totally controlled” and “captive by Russia” over a natural gas pipeline project, known as the Nord Stream 2. The U.S. fears the deal could give Moscow greater leverage over Western Europe. In Saturday’s interview, the president reiterated the criticisms he made in Brussels.

“Germany made a pipeline deal with Russia. Where they’re going to be paying Russia billions and billions of dollars a year for energy, and I say that’s not good, that’s not fair. You’re supposed to be fighting for someone and then that someone gives billions of dollars to the one you’re, you know, guarding against. I think it’s ridiculous, so I let that be known also this time,” Mr. Trump told Glor. “I’ll tell you what, there’s a lot of anger at the fact that Germany is paying Russia billions of dollars. There’s a lot of anger. I also think it’s a very bad thing for Germany. Because it’s like, what, are they waving a white flag?”

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who grew up in communist East Germany, told reporters after the president’s comments in Brussels that she had “experienced myself how a part of Germany was controlled by the Soviet Union” and said her country today made “independent policies” and “independent decisions.

In the CBS News interview, Mr. Trump also continued to criticize the special counsel’s Russia investigation, saying it is having an impact on America’s standing in the world. “I think we’re greatly hampered by this whole witch hunt that’s going on in the United States,” the president said. “I think it hurts our relationship with Russia. I actually think it hurts our relationship with a lot of countries. I think it’s a disgrace what’s going on.”

Mr. Trump heads to Helsinki on Sunday ahead of his meeting with Putin on Monday. He told Glor he has “low expectations” for the summit. “Nothing bad is going to come out of it, and maybe some good will come out,” he said.

[CBS News]

President Trump Called The Sun “Fake News”. But The Tabloid Quoted Him Accurately.

US president Donald Trump has labelled Murdoch tabloid the Sun “fake news” for its publication of an exclusive interview, despite the newspaper conducting the interview on the record and accurately quoting him.

In a press conference alongside Theresa May at Chequers on Friday, Trump tried to contain the fallout after his comments criticising the prime minister’s proposed Brexit deal, which had run in Friday’s edition of the newspaper.

“I didn’t criticise the prime minister,” Trump said.

“I have a lot of respect for the prime minister and unfortunately there was a story that was done and it was generally fine but it didn’t put in what I said about the prime minister.

“I said tremendous things. Fortunately we tend to record stories now so we have it, so we can have it for your enjoyment if you’d like it.

“We record when we deal with reporters – it’s called ‘fake news’.”

The Sun’s interview was conducted by political editor Tom Newton Dunn in Brussels on Wednesday, with Trump’s praise for the prime minister included both online and on page 2 of the newspaper.

udio of Trump’s comments has also been published online since the interview went live. Later in the press conference, Trump was told the Sun’s political editor was among the journalists gathered and went on to ask him whether he’d praised May during the interview.

“Did I say nice things about Theresa May, please?” Trump said, with the camera panning around to Newton Dunn, who was nodding.

Trump continued: “I didn’t think they put it in. They didn’t put it in the headline. I wish they put it in the headline.”

He said he apologised to the prime minister on Friday morning, claiming May was dismissive of the Sun interview.

“I want to apologise, because I said such nice things,” Trump said. “She said, ‘Don’t worry, it’s only the press.'”

In response, the Sun issued a statement that both said the newspaper stood by the publication of the interview and seemed to defend Trump’s “fake news” outburst from his critics.

“We stand by our reporting and the quotes we used – including those where the President was positive about the Prime Minister, in both the paper and in our audio – and we’re delighted that the President essentially retracted his original charge against the paper later in the press conference,” a Sun spokesperson said.

“To say the President used ‘fake news’ with any serious intent is, well… ‘fake news’.”

The newspaper had led its coverage of the Trump interview with the president’s scathing assessment of May’s Brexit handling and a future possible trade deal, with the front-page headline: “May has wrecked Brexit… US deal is off!”

According to the Sun interview, Trump said he would have taken the “opposite” of May’s approach and suggested the prime minister’s current plan would “kill” off a trade deal between the US and UK.

“I would have done it much differently,” Trump said. “I actually told Theresa May how to do it, but she didn’t listen to me.”

On Friday afternoon, standing alongside May, Trump walked back his comments.

“Once the Brexit process has concluded and perhaps the UK has left the EU, I don’t know what they’re going to do, but whatever you do is OK with me, that’s your decision,” Trump said.

“Whatever you’re going to do is OK with us. Just make sure we can trade together.”

Attacking the media was a feature of the Friday press conference at Chequers, with Trump’s “fake news” slur of the Sun not the only instance where the president complained about reporters and specific outlets.

Unhappy with a question about his upcoming meeting with Russian president Vladimir Putin, Trump called an NBC reporter’s question “dishonest” and said her network was “possibly worse than CNN”.

He also snubbed a CNN reporter, yelling “CNN is fake news and I don’t take questions from CNN,” as May grimaced alongside him.

[Buzzfeed]

Media

Here is the audio of Trump’s interview with The Sun.

President Trump attacks U.K. politicians, says ‘baby’ blimp makes him feel unwelcome in London

President Donald Trump came out swinging in a British tabloid interview Thursday, calling the mayor of London “soft on terrorism” and saying he felt unwelcome in the English capital.

In an interview with the British newspaper The Sun, Trump injected himself into a British political landscape still feeling the aftershocks of a cabinet shakeup fueled by a growing rift over Brexit. He said Boris Johnson, the former foreign minister who resigned this week in a split with Prime Minister Theresa May, “would make a great prime minister.”

The interview was so explosive in the United Kingdom that White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders issued a late-night statement, clarifying that “the president likes and respects Prime Minister May very much” and “is a really terrific person.”

Trump made clear he’s firmly on the side of Johnson and others who want the United Kingdom to leave the European Union. He said he warned British Prime Minister Theresa May not to work toward a so-called “soft Brexit” that would maintain political and economic ties with the continent.

“I would have done it much differently. I actually told Theresa May how to do it but she didn’t agree, she didn’t listen to me,” he said.

And he even warned that May’s proposed compromise — in which the U.K. would maintain open borders with Europe while seeking more political autonomy — would kill the possibility of a U.S.-U.K. trade deal.

“If they do a deal like that, we would be dealing with the European Union instead of dealing with the UK, so it will probably kill the deal,” he said.

More: President Donald Trump arrives to Britain in ‘turmoil’

Trump will meet with May Friday, followed by a joint press conference and tea with Queen Elizabeth II at Windsor Castle before leaving for Scotland.

Trump called the 92-year-old queen — the longest-reigning monarch in British history — “a tremendous woman.”

“My wife is a tremendous fan of hers. She has got a great and beautiful grace about her,” Trump said in the interview, which took place in Brussels Wednesday morning but was published Thursday night.

More: Melania Trump stuns in sweeping Grecian-goddess J. Mendel gown for dinner at Churchill’s palace

Although Trump is staying at the U.S. ambassador’s London mansion during his two-day trip to London, all of his scheduled public events are outside the city.

“I used to love London as a city. I haven’t been there in a long time. But when they make you feel unwelcome, why would I stay there?” he said  “I guess when they put out blimps to make me feel unwelcome, no reason for me to go to London.”

Trump was referring to the 20-foot “Trump Baby” balloon floating above protests in London.

Trump also lashed out at his longtime nemesis, London Mayor Sadiq Khan, a Muslim who has criticized Trump’s ban on travel to the United States from several predominately Muslim countries.

“You have a mayor who has done a terrible job in London. He has done a terrible job,” Trump said “Take a look at the terrorism that is taking place. Look at what is going on in London.”

And Trump suggested that Khan’s criticism of him personally reflected a disrespect for the office he holds.

“He might not like the current president, but I represent the United States,” Trump said.

[USA Today]

Reality

Trump told May he wouldn’t come to England until he had a warm welcome. He didn’t get it.

Trump’s claim that NATO will boost defense spending disputed

President Donald Trump closed out his chaotic two-day visit to NATO Thursday by declaring victory, claiming that member nations caved to his demands to significantly increase defense spending and reaffirming his commitment to the alliance.

But there were no immediate specifics on what he had achieved, and French President Emmanuel Macron quickly disputed Trump’s claim that NATO allies have agreed to boost defense spending beyond 2 percent of gross domestic product.

“The United States’ commitment to NATO remains very strong,” Trump told reporters at a surprise news conference following an emergency session of NATO members held to address his threats.

Trump had spent his time in Brussels berating members of the military alliance for failing to spend enough of their money on defense, accusing Europe of freeloading off the U.S. and raising doubts about whether he would come to members’ defense if they were attacked.

Trump said he made his anger clear to allies on Wednesday.

“Yesterday I let them know that I was extremely unhappy with what was happening,” Trump said, adding that, in response, European countries agreed to up their spending.

“They have substantially upped their commitment and now we’re very happy and have a very, very powerful, very, very strong NATO,” he said.

Trump did not specify which countries had committed to what, and it remained unclear whether any had changed their plans. He seemed to suggest a speeded-up timeline, saying nations would be “spending at a much faster clip.”

“Some are at 2 percent, others have agreed definitely to go to 2 percent, and some are going back to get the approval, and which they will get to go to 2 percent,” he said.

NATO countries in 2014 committed to spending 2 percent of their gross domestic products on defense within a decade. NATO has estimated that only 15 members, or just over half, will meet the benchmark by 2024 based on current trends.

Macron, in his own press conference, seemed to reject Trump’s claim that NATO powers had agreed to increases beyond previous targets. He said the allies had confirmed their intention to meet the goal of 2 percent by 2024 and no more.

The emergency session came amid reports that Trump had threatened to leave the alliance if allies didn’t immediately up their spending, but officials said no explicit threat was made.

“President Trump never at any moment, either in public or in private, threatened to withdraw from NATO,” Macron said.

Trump has taken an aggressive tone during the NATO summit, questioning the value of an alliance that has defined decades of American foreign policy, torching an ally and proposing a massive increase in European defense spending.

Earlier Thursday, Trump called out U.S. allies on Twitter, saying, “Presidents have been trying unsuccessfully for years to get Germany and other rich NATO Nations to pay more toward their protection from Russia.”

He complained the United States “pays tens of Billions of Dollars too much to subsidize Europe” and demanded that member nations meet their pledge to spend 2 percent of GDP on defense, which “must ultimately go to 4%!”

Under fire for his warm embrace of Russia’s Vladimir Putin, Trump on Wednesday also turned a harsh spotlight on Germany’s own ties to Russia, alleging that a natural gas pipeline venture with Moscow has left Angela Merkel’s government “totally controlled” and “captive” to Russia.

[CNBC]

Trump: I could pull out of NATO, but that’s “unnecessary”

President Trump was just asked directly he was threatening to pull out of NATO.

A reporter asked: “Are you still threatening to potentially pull the United States out of NATO for any reason, and do you believe you can do that without Congress’s explicit support and approval?

Here’s what Trump said:

“I think I probably can, but that is unnecessary. They have stepped up today like they have never stepped up before.”

[CNN]

At NATO, Trump lashes out at allies and then asks them to double their defense spending goals

President Trump on Wednesday issued an ambitious call for vastly more defense spending at NATO, pushing for a doubling of their defense spending commitments hours after he delivered a blistering tirade against Germany and other allies.

The demand during a closed-door meeting of NATO leaders would radically increase the amount of money channeled toward military purposes in the Western alliance — and even the United States is currently falling well short of Trump’s new goal.

Although Trump joined fellow NATO leaders in approving a sweeping set of plans to bolster defenses against Russia and terrorism, the U.S. president has complained that Europe has been taking advantage of U.S. military support for the continent. He urged his counterparts to substantially raise targets that they are already missing.

The move would raise billions more for defense. But not even the United States — which spends more money on defense than any other nation in the world — meets Trump’s new goal of annual spending of 4 percent of nations’ gross domestic product. Washington spent 3.6 percent last year.

“During the president’s remarks today at the NATO summit he suggested that countries not only meet their commitment of 2 percent of their GDP on defense spending, but that they increase it to 4 percent. The president raised this same issue when he was at NATO last year,” White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement.

“President Trump wants to see our allies share more of the burden and at a very minimum meet their already stated obligations,” she said.

Asked at a news conference about Trump’s demands on defense spending, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg  suggested that the focus should be on getting every member country to reach the current goal of 2 percent. Only eight of 29 NATO countries are on track to meet the 2 percent goal this year.

Despite Trump’s pugnacious posture and rhetoric, allies sought to project unity at the conclusion of meetings in Brussels.

“We do have disagreements, but most importantly, we have decisions that are pushing this alliance forward and making us stronger,” Stoltenberg said. “At the end of the day, we all agree that North America and Europe are safer together.”

Trump raised the spending issue during his remarks in the first and main session of the NATO summit.

The decision to sign on to the NATO defense plans plans suggested that Trump is holding back from slashing support for the alliance, despite his anger over what he says is Europe’s taking advantage of the U.S. security umbrella. NATO leaders are still concerned that he will make concessions to Russian President Vladimir Putin when the two meet on Monday in Helsinki.

[Washington Post]

Trump Kicks Off NATO Summit With Breakfast Rant: ‘Germany Is A Captive Of Russia’

President Donald Trump on Wednesday kicked off what is shaping up to be a contentious NATO summit by lashing out at Germany, saying the country is “captive to Russia” because of a gas pipeline deal.

In a bilateral breakfast meeting with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, in front of reporters, Trump immediately launched into a tirade about the pipeline.

“It’s very sad when Germany makes a massive oil and gas deal with Russia where we’re supposed to be guarding against Russia and Germany goes out and pays billions and billions of dollars a year to Russia,” he said.

“If you look at it, Germany is a captive of Russia, because they supply ― they got rid of their coal plants, got rid of their nuclear, they’re getting so much of the oil and gas from Russia,” he added. “I think it’s something NATO has to look at.”

“Germany is totally controlled by Russia, cause they are getting 60 to 70 percent of their energy from Russia and a new pipeline,” he said.

Trump’s comments referred to Berlin’s support for the construction of the $12 billion Nord Stream 2 pipeline to bring gas across the Baltic Sea into the European continent. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said that the project is merely commercial, but the U.S. and other European Union members believe the pipeline could be a geopolitical incursion by Russia.

Stoltenberg responded by emphasizing NATO’s unity.

“NATO is an an alliance of 29 nations and sometimes there are differences and different views and also some disagreements, and the gas pipeline from Russia to Germany is one issue where allies disagree,” said Stoltenberg.

Trump is in Brussels for the NATO summit on Wednesday and Thursday, then will spend Friday and the weekend on a working visit to the UK, then will meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki on Monday.

There are concerns that Trump will alienate NATO members ― traditional allies of the U.S. ― while cozying up to Putin.

Ahead of the NATO summit, Trump sent letters to allies Merkel, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Prime Minister Charles Michel of Belgium blasting them for not spending enough on defense ― an oft-repeated criticism of the alliance. Meanwhile, he told reporters on Tuesday that his meeting with Putin “may be the easiest of them all.”

Trump’s continued downplaying of Russian election interference has also deviated from broader international attitudes.

“Russia continues to say they had nothing to do with Meddling in our Election!,” he tweeted last month before tearing into the FBI and its former director James Comey. The U.S. intelligence community, backed by a Republican-led Senate panel, has definitively concluded that Kremlin meddled in the 2016 election to help Trump win.

Trump also called Putin “fine” in a fiery speech last week in which he also attacked European allies.

Back in the U.S., the Senate on Tuesday voted 97-2 on a motion of support for NATO.

“Unfortunately, this motion has become necessary because some of our closest allies have come to question the US commitment to collective self-defense. President Trump has at times called the alliance ‘obsolete.’ Our allies are starting to wonder whether they can rely on the United States to come to their defense in a crisis,” said Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.), who authored the nonbinding motion.

[Huffington Post]

Media

President Trump at NATO Presser: Putin is ‘Not My Enemy’, It’s Not About ‘Enemy’, ‘He’s Not My Enemy’

During his surprise press conference today at the end of the NATO summit in Brussels, President Trump was asked if he admires Vladimir Putin since he compliments the latter so often.

Trump called the Russian leader a “competitor” rather than a friend or enemy at the start of this week, so a reporter wanted to know if he thinks the two will get along well once they hold their meeting in the next few days. Trump said he doesn’t “know Putin well enough” even though they got along during previous meetings together, but he mostly deferred to the “competitor” label again.

“He’s representing Russia. I’m representing the United States. So, n a sense, we’re competitors. Not a question of friend or enemies. He’s not my enemy, and hopefully someday, maybe he’ll be a friend. It could happen, BUT I just don’t know him very well.”

Russia was a recurring subject of interest throughout the presser, so Trump was asked about matters such as whether Russia is a “security threat,” and whether he’ll ask Putin if Russia interfered with the 2016 election.

[Mediaite]

As Trump Criticizes NATO, E.U. Leader Warns: You ‘Won’t Have a Better Ally’

President Trump renewed his criticism of European allies on Tuesday and said he was most optimistic about meeting with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, as he departed for a summit meeting in Brussels that threatens to highlight acrimony within NATO.

Mr. Trump’s comments touched off a round of trans-Atlantic sniping with Donald Tusk, the president of the European Council, that was sure to start the NATO meeting on a tense note.

“The U.S. is spending many times more than any other country in order to protect them,” Mr. Trump said on Twitter of the other members of the Atlantic alliance, hours before Air Force One left for Belgium. “Not fair to the U.S. taxpayer.”

He complained anew about trade deficits with the European Union, and seemed to threaten to cut American military spending in a bid to compel other NATO members to increase theirs.

“NATO countries must pay MORE, the United States must pay LESS,” Mr. Trump said in a separate tweet. “Very Unfair!”

The complaints reflected the degree to which Mr. Trump is coming into the summit meeting focused on his anger with NATO and his conviction that the alliance exploits American largess to the detriment of the United States. That is a stark departure from previous American presidents of both parties, who have tended to regard the alliance as an invaluable force for collective defense that reflects shared values among its members.

Mr. Trump’s remarks exacerbated concerns that he may torpedo the meeting that begins on Wednesday, and with it, the alliance’s efforts to show unity and solidarity in the face of global threats, including from Russia.

“Frankly, Putin may be the easiest of them all — who would think?” Mr. Trump said of his discussions over the next week, which include the NATO gathering, a working visit on Friday with Prime Minister Theresa May of Britain, whose government is in turmoil; and his first summit meeting with the Russian president on Monday in Helsinki, Finland.

Mr. Trump’s tweets prompted a tart retort from Mr. Tusk, who answered back on Twitter saying that Europe was a friend worth protecting, unlike other countries with which Mr. Trump has cultivated relationships.

“Dear @realDonaldTrump,” Mr. Tusk wrote. “US doesn’t have and won’t have a better ally than EU. We spend on defense much more than Russia and as much as China. I hope you have no doubt this is an investment in our security, which cannot be said with confidence about Russian & Chinese spending.”

In comments following the signing of a joint European Union-NATO declaration, Mr. Tusk said he wanted to address Mr. Trump’s near-daily criticism of Europe and complaints that countries are “living off the U.S.”

“Appreciate your allies,” Mr. Tusk said. “After all, you don’t have that many.”

Mr. Tusk, the president of the body that represents leaders of European Union member states, many of which are also in NATO, has a history of publicly challenging Mr. Trump, at a time when many foreign leaders are wary of the American president but reluctant to criticize him openly.

Last month, he said that Mr. Trump’s politics had put trans-Atlantic relations “under tremendous pressure” and warned Europeans to prepare for darker times. In May, he tweeted that Mr. Trump’s decisions could prompt the question, “With friends like that, who needs enemies.”

On Tuesday, as he left the White House for the short helicopter ride to Andrews Air Force Base to begin his trip to Europe, Mr. Trump seemed unmoved by Mr. Tusk’s latest pushback.

“Well, we do have a lot of allies, but we cannot be taken advantage of,” the president said, when asked about Mr. Tusk’s comments. “We’re being taken advantage of by the European Union.

“We lost $151 billion last year on trade, and on top of that we spend at least 70 percent for NATO, and frankly it helps them a lot more than it helps us. So we’ll see what happens.”

[The New York Times]

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