Trump calls Trudeau “two-faced,” cancels NATO press conference

President Trump called Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau “two-faced” on Wednesday after Trudeau appeared to mock the president during a reception at Buckingham Palace.

The president also canceled a news conference that was scheduled to take place at the conclusion of the NATO summit.

“When today’s meetings are over, I will be heading back to Washington,” Mr. Trump tweeted. “We won’t be doing a press conference at the close of NATO because we did so many over the past two days.” He had previously signaled to reporters he might cancel the news conference, which was slated for 10:30 a.m. Wednesday. 

Mr. Trump has engaged in some tense interactions with fellow world leaders, including Trudeau and French President Emmanuel Macron. During a reception at Buckingham Palace on Tuesday, Macron, Trudeau and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson appeared to joke about Mr. Trump.

“He was late because he takes a 40-minute press conference off the top,” Trudeau can be heard telling Macron and Johnson, adding, “You just watched his team’s jaws drop to the floor.”

When asked by reporters about Trudeau’s comments, Mr. Trump called the Canadian prime minister “two-faced” and suggested Trudeau “wasn’t happy” he was called out by the president for not meeting NATO’s 2% commitment. 

“I’m representing the U.S. and he should be paying more than he’s paying, and he understands that,” Mr. Trump said on Trudeau. “So I can imagine he’s not that happy, but that’s the way it is.”

Earlier, the president criticized Macron for suggesting NATO is experiencing “brain death,” defending the institution he says he has made stronger. 

Meanwhile, across the Atlantic, the House Judiciary Committee is expected to hold its first public impeachment hearing. Mr. Trump continued to blast House Democrats’ impeachment process while in London, even as he said he might like for some of his top aides to testify in any Senate proceedings. 

During his trip, Mr. Trump also announced the U.S. will host the G-7 summit next year at Camp David, a place acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney had previously derided as an undesirable location because no one liked it. Mulvaney announced in a memorable news conference earlier this fall that the G-7 would take place at Mr. Trump’s resort in Florida, before the White House reversed course under intense political pressure. 

[CBS News]

Trump, Macron hold tense meeting: ‘Would you like some nice ISIS fighters? I can give them to you’

President Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron held a tense meeting Tuesday on the sidelines of a NATO summit, with Trump at one point telling the French leader he could send him some “ISIS fighters” if he wanted them.

“Would you like some nice ISIS fighters? I can give them to you,” Trump said with a slight smile at the meeting, which was carried live on cable news. “You can take every one you want.”

“Let’s be serious,” Macron replied sternly, reasoning that most ISIS fighters came from Syria, Iraq and Iran and disputing Trump’s common refrain that the terrorist group had been defeated.

Trump has complained that European countries have been unwilling to accept ISIS fighters the U.S. had captured.

The French president insisted that the number of European ISIS fighters was a “tiny” part of the overall problem of addressing destabilization in the region. He was also adamant that the terrorist group had not entirely been defeated, a break with a common declaration from Trump.

“I think [the] No. 1 priority, because it’s not finished, is it to get rid of ISIS,” Macron said.

“That was one of the greatest nonanswers I ever heard,” Trump said after Macron had concluded. “And that’s OK.”

If the meeting was tense, the days leading up the the one-on-one session were equally so. 

A day before the meeting, the Trump administration announced it was prepared to impose 100 percent tariffs on wine and other products from France in response to complaints about a French tax that has hit U.S. technology companies.

A myriad of disagreements between the two leaders played out in public over the course of the 40 minute meeting, which came hours after Trump called Macron’s comments critical of NATO “insulting.” The icy tone was a far cry from the warm embraces and state visit the two men have shared over the past two years. 

Trump emphasized his “very good relationship” with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan after Macron noted disagreements between Turkey and the rest of the alliance on their definition of terrorism. 

“I can only say we have a very good relationship with Turkey and president Erdoğan,” Trump said when asked about Turkey’s standing in NATO. “We have a very good relationship.” 

Macron interjected shortly thereafter: “We have lost cooperation with Turkey.” 

The French president demanded “clarification” from Ankara on how it could be a member of the NATO alliance and also purchase Russian S-400 missile systems amid NATO opposition. Macron also said Turkey wanted to “blow up” the summit if the other alliance members did not recognize Ankara’s view of groups that are terrorists. 

When Trump suggested that his predecessor, former President Obama, pushed Turkey toward purchasing the Russian missiles by refusing to sell Ankara the Patriot missile, Macron shot back, saying it was Turkey’s “own decision” to purchase the missiles after Europe offered another option that was compliant with NATO.  

Trump was noncommittal on reaching a deal to avert U.S. tariffs set to be imposed on $2.4 billion in French imports. He expressed frustration with the French tax, which he sees as targeting U.S. companies.

“They’re American companies,” he said. “The tech companies you’re talking about, they’re not my favorite people because they’re not exactly for me, but that’s OK. I don’t care, they’re American companies. And we want to tax American companies. We want to tax them. That’s not for somebody else to tax them.”

Tuesday’s icy meeting underscored the evolution of the Trump-Macron relationship.

The two men came into office within months of each other and enjoyed a close relationship. They famously shared a lengthy and intense handshake at one of their first meetings, and Trump later hosted Macron at the White House for a state visit.

But Macron has become more outspoken as he seeks to take the mantle in Europe in the face of changing governments there and Trump’s unpredictability.

On Tuesday, the French president stood by his controversial comments about NATO, Macron said he was a supporter of a stronger European component in the alliance and agreed with Trump that the U.S. was overinvested compared with other countries, but he said there was more to the alliance than discussions about money and burden sharing.

“When you speak about NATO, it’s not just about money,” Macron said. “We have to be clear on the fundamentals of what NATO should be.”

[The Hill]

Trump criticizes Lisa Page after she breaks silence

President Trump criticized former FBI lawyer Lisa Page on Monday in a tweet, a day after she broke her silence in an interview about the attacks she has withstood from the president.

“When Lisa Page, the lover of Peter Strzok, talks about being ‘crushed’, and how innocent she is, ask her to read Peter’s ‘Insurance Policy’ text, to her, just in case Hillary loses,” Trump tweeted Monday while traveling to the United Kingdom for a NATO meeting.

“Also, why were the lovers text messages scrubbed after he left Mueller. Where are they Lisa?” the president continued, accusing former special counsel Robert Mueller of deleting text messages between Page and Strzok without offering evidence. 

Trump and his allies have long eviscerated Page and Strzok — another former FBI official — for text messages they sent criticizing then-candidate Trump ahead of the 2016 election. The messages exchanged by the pair, who had an affair and who both worked on the FBI’s original Russian interference probe, were unearthed by a Justice Department inspector general investigation last year.

In one August 2016 exchange, Strzok compared the Russia investigation to “an insurance policy in the unlikely event you die before 40.”

Trump has pointed to the text messages as evidence that Page and Strzok were laying the groundwork for an effort to undermine him in the event he won the 2016 presidential election against Democrat Hillary Clinton.

Page subsequently told congressional investigators that the two were discussing how strongly to push forward in investigating possible ties between the Trump campaign and Moscow.

Page broke years of public silence in an interview with The Daily Beast published Sunday, likening Trump’s attacks on her to being “punched in the gut.”

“My heart drops to my stomach when I realize he has tweeted about me again. The president of the United States is calling me names to the entire world. He’s demeaning me and my career. It’s sickening,” Page told The Daily Beast. 

The Justice Department inspector general said last year that the text messages had been deleted from the individuals’ FBI phones due to technical glitches but had been recovered.

[The Hill]

Trump praises Kennedy after Chuck Todd links senator’s Ukraine remarks to Putin

President Trump on Monday praised Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) for his appearance a day earlier on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” where anchor Chuck Todd questioned the senator for pushing the unsubstantiated claim that Ukraine meddled in the 2016 election.

“Thank you to Great Republican @SenJohnKennedy for the job he did in representing both the Republican Party and myself against Sleepy Eyes Chuck Todd on Meet the Depressed!” Trump tweeted.

The president tweeted his thanks as he flew to London for NATO meetings. He also praised two House Republicans for defending him against the impeachment inquiry in television interviews.

Kennedy has been part of controversial interviews each of the past two Sundays after making claims about Ukraine’s involvement in the 2016 election.

Kennedy last week suggested that there was still a possibility that Ukraine was responsible for the 2016 Democratic National Committee hack. He walked back those comments days later but has continued to insist Ukraine interfered in other ways. 

On “Meet the Press” on Sunday, Kennedy asserted that reporting in outlets such as Politico and The Economist indicated that the former Ukrainian president favored Clinton over Trump.

“The fact that Russia was so aggressive does not exclude the fact that President Poroshenko actively worked for Secretary Clinton,” he said.

Todd appeared exasperated with the senator and pushed back on his argument, suggesting Kennedy was furthering a narrative of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“Are you at all concerned that you’ve been duped?” Todd asked. 

“No, just read the articles,” Kennedy said. 

The Intelligence Committee has concluded that Russia, not Ukraine, interfered in the 2016 election and was seeking to aid the Trump campaign. Former special counsel Robert Mueller determined he could not establish that the Trump campaign worked with Russia.

In the aftermath of that investigation, Trump and some of his allies have continued to claim Ukraine meddled in the 2016 race despite the insistence to the contrary of national security officials. 

[The Hill]

Trump repeats Ukraine conspiracy theory and more debunked lies on 53-minute “Fox & Friends” call

President Trump spent 53 minutes of his Friday morning on the phone with the hosts of “Fox & Friends” — his latest call-in to one of his favorite TV shows.

Driving the news: President Trump spent a chunk of the interview repeating a debunked conspiracy theory that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 presidential election. “That’s what the word is,” he claimed without evidence.

  • The debunked conspiracy theory — frequently referred to as CrowdStrike, the security firm at its center — is based on the idea that Ukraine was complicit in the 2016 hacking of the Democratic National Committee to create false electronic records that Russia was behind the hacking.
  • Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the National Security Council’s top Ukraine expert, said during his impeachment hearing that the Crowdstrike conspiracy theory is “a Russian narrative that President Putin has promoted.”
  • Fiona Hill, Trump’s former top Russia adviser, said during her impeachment hearing that the conspiracy theory is “a fictional narrative that has been perpetrated and propagated by the Russian security services themselves.”

Worth noting: Trump also said that Crowdstrike is owned by “a very wealthy Ukrainian,” but it’s actually a publicly-traded company. Its largest outside shareholder is Warburg Pincus, a New York City private equity firm from which Trump plucked one of his top economic advisors.

Impeachment-related highlights:

  • The president once again slammed former Ukraine Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, claiming she was “not an angel.” During her impeachment testimony , she agreed that it was Trump’s prerogative to fire ambassadors at will, but asked, “What I do wonder is why was it necessary to smear my reputation also?”
  • Trump said that during a Senate impeachment trial he only wants House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) to testify more than Hunter Biden.
  • Trump said that he knows “exactly” who the Ukraine whistleblower is — and insinuated that the “Fox & Friends” hosts did as well — prompting them to attempt to steer the conversation away from the topic live on air.

Other highlights:

  • Trump predicted that Speaker Nancy Pelosi won’t pass the USMCA trade deal, despite it being a priority for some Democratic lawmakers ahead of 2020.
  • He tried to find a middle ground between supporting pro-democracy protestors in Hong Kong and not offending Chinese President Xi Jinping as the U.S. attempts to close a “phase one” trade deal with China. “We have to stand with Hong Kong, but I’m also standing with President Xi,” he said.
  • Trump denied rumors surrounding his health after a surprise visit to Walter Reed National Medical Center last weekend, calling it “fake, disgusting news.”

2020 lightning round:

  • Joe Biden: “I don’t know if Joe can make it mentally. He’s off.”
  • Pete Buttigieg: “I don’t see him dealing with President Xi. I don’t see him dealing with Kim Jong-un. But maybe he is.”
  • Elizabeth Warren: “I think Pocahontas has come up from the embers.”
  • Michael Bloomberg: “I think his time has come and gone.

[Axios]

Reality

There was multiple fact checks some could only refer to this call as “bananas.”

Media

Trump attacks Fox News for interviewing Swalwell

President Trump on Thursday renewed his attacks against Fox News over its coverage of the impeachment inquiry, taking issue with the network’s decision to interview Democratic Rep. Eric Swalwell (Calif.) about the process. 

Trump singled out Fox News host Shannon Bream, asking why she would “waste airtime” by featuring a failed presidential candidate, referencing Swalwell’s short-lived 2020 campaign. 

“Fox should stay with the people that got them there, not losers!” he said. 

Beam interviewed Swalwell, a Democratic member of the House Intelligence Committee, following a day in which the panel heard testimony from three administration officials about the president’s dealings with Ukraine. 

The House impeachment inquiry has centered around allegations that the president pressured Ukraine to investigate 2020 presidential candidate Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden over unfounded allegations of corruption. House Democrats are also probing whether Trump tied military aid to Ukraine publicly announcing the investigations. 

While speaking on Fox News, Swalwell adamantly pushed back against Republicans’ argument that a quid pro quo didn’t take place because Ukraine eventually received the security aid. 

“The president got caught. The only reason the aid was released was because the whistleblower came forward,” Swalwell said, referencing a government whistleblower complaint that led to the launch of the impeachment inquiry. 

Swalwell also emphasized new statements from Laura Cooper, the deputy assistant secretary of Defense for Russia and Ukraine, who testified that her staff received questions from the Ukraine Embassy about “security assistance” on July 25. That is the same day Trump urged Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky during a phone call to open investigations. 

Trump has repeatedly dismissed allegations of wrongdoing, often characterizing officials testifying in the impeachment inquiry as “Never Trumpers.” In a separate tweet early Thursday morning, he claimed the “fake” and “corrupt” news media weren’t covering the impeachment hearings fairly. 

While Trump has enjoyed a cordial relationship with many of Fox News’s opinion hosts, he’s also shown a willingness to target some of its news anchors. Earlier this week, he blasted “Fox News Sunday” host Chris Wallace as “nasty” and “obnoxious” over an interview in which he persistently grilled House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) about the implications of the impeachment inquiry. 

Trump claimed that the “dumb and unfair interview would never have happened” in the past, prompting a rebuttal from Wallace’s colleague Neil Cavuto. 

“The best we can do as journalists is be fair to all, including you, Mr. President,” Cavuto said on Fox News on Monday. “That’s not fake doing that. What is fake is not doing that. What is fake is saying Fox never used to do that. Mr. President, we have always done that.”

[The Hill]

IMPEACHMENT INQUIRY Trump says he will ‘strongly consider’ testifying in House impeachment probe

President Donald Trump said Monday that he is “strongly” considering testifying before the impeachment probe in light of recent comments from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., who said he is more than welcome to present his case personally before the House Intelligence Committee.

“Our Crazy, Do Nothing (where’s USMCA, infrastructure, lower drug pricing & much more?) Speaker of the House, Nervous Nancy Pelosi, who is petrified by her Radical Left knowing she will soon be gone (they & Fake News Media are her BOSS), suggested on Sunday’s DEFACE THE NATION that I testify about the phony Impeachment Witch Hunt,” Trump tweeted. “She also said I could do it in writing. Even though I did nothing wrong, and don’t like giving credibility to this No Due Process Hoax, I like the idea & will, in order to get Congress focused again, strongly consider it!”

Speaking with CBS’s “Face the Nation” in an interview that aired Sunday, Pelosi said Trump can “come right before the committee and talk, speak all the truth that he wants, if he wants to take the oath of office, or he could do it in writing.”

“He has every opportunity to present his case,” she said, adding that if Trump “has information that is exculpatory, that means ex, taking away, culpable, blame, then we look forward to seeing it.”

But Pelosi, calling Trump’s efforts at having Ukraine investigate the Bidens and a debunked conspiracy theory about the 2016 presidential election, said the president’s conduct “was so much worse than even what Richard Nixon did.”

“At some point, Richard Nixon cared about the country enough to recognize that this could not continue,” she said.

Public calls for the president to testify before the committee have ramped up recently. After an extended rant during Wednesday’s public impeachment hearings from Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, in which the Trump ally said investigators need to have “the person who started” the probe, meaning the first whistleblower, come testify, Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt., retorted, “I’d like to see the person who started it come testify. President Trump is welcome to take a seat right there.”

Speaking with Fox News on Monday, Rep. Lee Zeldin, R-N.Y., one of Trump’s top allies in battling impeachment, said his advice to the president on testifying before impeachment investigators would be “heck no.”

Earlier this month, Trump decried the idea of the whistleblower providing written answers to Congress, saying they would be “not acceptable.” Trump refused to supply former special counsel Robert Mueller with live testimony, instead opting to provide written answers to a series of questions related to Russian electoral interference. In his more than 400-page report, Mueller said those written answers were “inadequate.”

[NBC News]

Trump attacks Pence aide who called Ukraine call ‘inappropriate’

President Trump railed against Jennifer Williams, a career foreign service officer and staffer to Vice President Pence, after she told lawmakers in closed-door testimony that Trump’s July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky at the center of the impeachment inquiry was “inappropriate.”

“Tell Jennifer Williams, whoever that is, to read BOTH transcripts of the presidential calls, & see the just released ststement from Ukraine,” the president tweeted Sunday afternoon. “Then she should meet with the other Never Trumpers, who I don’t know & mostly never even heard of, & work out a better presidential attack!”

Trump also used the label “Never Trumpers” to attack diplomat William Taylor and State Department official George Kent after they testified in the impeachment inquiry last week.

He also took aim at what he called “Crazed, Do Nothing Democrats” in a tweet moments later, accusing them of “turning Impeachment into a routine partisan weapon. That is very bad for our Country, and not what the Founders had in mind!!!!”

“Republicans & others must remember, the Ukrainian President and Foreign Minister both said that there was no pressure placed on them whatsoever,” he wrote in another tweet. “Also, they didn’t even know the money wasn’t paid, and got the money with no conditions. But why isn’t Germany, France (Europe) paying?” 

On Saturday, House Democrats released a transcript of Williams’s closed-door testimony with lawmakers as part of the chamber’s ongoing impeachment inquiry into Trump.

During her deposition, Williams testified that she has firsthand knowledge of the July 25 phone call between Trump and Zelensky as one of the officials on the call.

Williams testified that she found a few references made in the phone call — during which Trump asked Zelensky to look into former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden as well as the hack of the Democratic National Committee server in 2016 — to be “unusual, and more of a political nature.”

When pressed by Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) on her feelings about the concerns raised by Trump during the call, Williams testified that she “found them to be more political in nature and, in the context of a foreign policy – or an engagement with a foreign leader, to be more political than diplomatic.”

“Some people would say that diplomacy itself is inherently political, and so everything diplomatic is, by definition, political also, but you had a strong reaction to that. Can you spell out what you saw improperly political about those mentions?” Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) asked Williams during her testimony.

“I believe I found the specific mentions to be – to be more specific to the president in nature, to his personal agenda … as opposed to a broad foreign policy objective of the United States,” Williams responded.

“I guess for me it shed some light on possible other motivations behind a security assistance hold,” she added.

Williams is expected to testify publicly next week as part of the ongoing impeachment inquiry into Trump.

[The Hill]

Trump defends Yovanovitch attack: ‘I have freedom of speech’

President Trump on Friday defended his tweet earlier in the day attacking former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch in the middle of her public testimony in the House impeachment hearing, insisting he has the right to speak out.

“I have the right to speak. I have freedom of speech just like other people do,” Trump told reporters at the White House after making remarks on a health care initiative, adding that he’s “allowed to speak up” if others are speaking about him.

Pressed on whether his words can be intimidating, as Yovanovitch and Democrats have said, Trump said no.

“I don’t think so at all,” he said.

The remarks were Trump’s first public comments of the day, which has largely been dominated by testimony from Yovanovitch. As the former ambassador testified about a smear campaign by Trump’s allies to oust her from her post in Kyiv, the president took aim at her on Twitter.

“Everywhere Marie Yovanovitch went turned bad. She started off in Somalia, how did that go? Then fast forward to Ukraine, where the new Ukrainian President spoke unfavorably about her in my second phone call with him,” Trump tweeted. “It is a U.S. President’s absolute right to appoint ambassadors.”

In a stunning moment, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) interrupted questioning from his staff counsel to read the president’s tweet aloud to Yovanovitch and asked for her reaction.

“I don’t think I have such powers,” Yovanovitch said with a slight laugh. “Not in Mogadishu, Somalia, not in other places.”

Asked what effect Trump’s tweet might have on future witnesses facing pressure from the White House not to testify, Yovanovitch described it as “very intimidating.”

Democrats on the committee and elsewhere in the House equated Trump’s tweet to witness intimidation and suggested that it could be considered when mulling articles of impeachment later in the process.

The White House on Friday morning issued a statement that Trump would not be watching Yovanovitch’s testimony beyond opening statements. But Trump himself said that he had tuned in.

“I watched a little bit of it today. I wasn’t able to yesterday because we had the president of Turkey here, and I wasn’t able to watch much,” Trump said. “I watched some of it this morning and I thought it was a disgrace.”

Trump complained that Republicans were not given a fair shake, referencing an instance where Schiff stopped Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) from questioning Yovanovitch because the rules stipulated that only the ranking member or Republican counsel could ask questions during that period.

“It’s a disgrace and it’s an embarrassment to our nation,” Trump said.

Yovanovitch is the third witness to testify publicly in the House impeachment inquiry. Several other current and former administration officials are scheduled to give public testimony next week.

[The Hill]

Trump attacks ambassador on Twitter as she testifies that his words in Ukraine call made her feel threatened

President Donald Trump lashed out at former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch on Friday as she testified in a public impeachment hearing that his words about her in a phone call with the Ukraine president “sounded like a threat.”

“Everywhere Marie Yovanovitch went turned bad,” Trump claimed in a two-part tweet blast.

“She started off in Somalia, how did that go? Then fast forward to Ukraine, where the new Ukrainian President spoke unfavorably about her in my second phone call with him. It is a U.S. President’s absolute right to appoint ambassadors,” the president wrote.

The time stamp on the tweet is 10 a.m., 30 minutes after Yovanovitch started her opening statement at the House Intelligence Committee’s impeachment hearing.

Yovanovitch, whose career of service to the U.S. spanned more than three decades, was asked at the hearing about the tweets.

“I actually think that where I served over the years I and others have demonstrably made things better for the U.S. as well as for the countries that I served in,” she said.

“It’s very intimidating,” she added when asked again about the president’s tweets.

“I want to let you know, ambassador, that some of us here take witness intimidation very, very seriously,” said House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif.

Yovanovitch had served the U.S. in Ukraine from August 2016 until May 2019, when Trump ousted her. She testified that she “had no agenda other than to pursue our stated foreign policy goals” during her tenure and said she was the victim of a “smear campaign” pushed in part by Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani.

Trump, in his July 25 phone call with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, called Yovanovitch “bad news” and offered the cryptic remark that “she’s going to go through some things.”

That call is now at the center of the impeachment inquiry into whether Trump abused his office by asking Zelenskiy to announce investigations involving former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter.

Yovanovitch, who was already removed as ambassador by the time of Trump’s July 25 call, said that Trump’s remark about her “didn’t sound good. It sounded like a threat.”

“It’s not a very precise phrase,” she added. “It kind of felt like a vague threat.”

[NBC News]

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