NATO Leaders Gossip About Trump in Unguarded Chat

LONDON (AP) — President Donald Trump got a taste of his own medicine Tuesday when leaders of major U.S. allies were caught on a candid video at the NATO summit, laughing and gossiping about his behavior.

In footage recorded Tuesday evening during a reception at Buckingham Palace, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau stood in a huddle with French President Emmanuel Macron, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte and Britain’s Princess Anne, daughter of Queen Elizabeth II.

French President Emmanuel Macron gossips about President Trump on Tuesday with, from left, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, at the NATO summit in England. (Host Broadcaster via AP)

After Johnson asked Macron, “Is that why you were late?” Trudeau said, “He was late because he takes a 40-minute press conference off the top” — a reference to Trump’s long and unscheduled question-and-answer session with journalists earlier Tuesday.

Trudeau added: “You just watched his team’s jaws drop to the floor.”

Trump was not mentioned by name during the exchange.

Footage of the palace reception was recorded by a pool camera. It was posted online by Canadian broadcaster CBC and has been viewed more than 4 million times.

NATO leaders are meeting Wednesday in Watford, outside London, to mark the 70th anniversary of the military alliance, and to try to patch up differences over defense spending, the alliance’s strategic direction and member nation Turkey’s military action in northern Syria.

Trump ran for election in 2016 by saying that the world was “laughing” at a declining United States.

On Wednesday, Trump is to meet with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte and Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen on the sidelines of the NATO leaders’ meeting. He will face a striking split-screen moment toward the end of the NATO conference, when he addresses the news media soon after Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., gavels to order the House Judiciary Committee’s first hearing in the impeachment inquiry.

Trump punctuated the day of diplomacy with a fundraiser for his re-election that his campaign said brought in $3 million.

Macron, meanwhile, renewed his criticism of Trump for withdrawing U.S. forces from Syria.

That decision by Trump, made without consulting France or other NATO allies, gave Turkey, another NATO member, a green light to launch operations against Syrian Kurdish forces who had played a key role in the fight to clear a huge swath of Syria of Islamic State militants.

Trump and Macron have had an up-and-down relationship in the nearly three years Trump’s been in office. As they answered questions from reporters, the new stress was apparent as they discussed their concerns over Turkey’s plan to purchase an anti-aircraft missile system from Russia.

Macron said there is a disconnect in allowing Turkey to buy the system from Russia and also be a NATO member. Trump said he is weighing issuing sanctions against Ankara if it does buy the weapons. Trump has been a strong supporter of Turkish strongman President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who said he would oppose a NATO plan to defend the Baltic region if the alliance does not back Turkey in its fight against Kurdish groups it considers terrorists.

“I’m sorry to say we don’t have the same definition of terrorism around the table,” Macron said in a swipe at Erdogan.

Trump showed more deference to Erdogan, saying that Turkey was “very helpful” during the October U.S. commando raid that led to the death of Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi near the Syria-Turkey border.

“We flew over areas that were totally controlled by Turkey and Turkish military,” Trump said. “We didn’t tell them what we were doing or where we were going. Turkey could not have been nicer, could not have been more supportive.”

At another point in their extended comments before the news media, Trump and Macron had a curt exchange about the repatriation of Islamic State fighters who are European citizens and were captured in Syria and Iraq in recent years. Trump has pressed unsuccessfully for European nations to accept fighters captured by U.S. forces.

“Would you like some nice ISIS fighters? I can give them to you,” Trump said. “You can take every one you want.”

“Let’s be serious,” Macron responded. “Your number 1 problem is not the foreign fighters.”

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