- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 4, 2019

President Trump called Justin Trudeau “two-faced” and left a NATO gathering early Wednesday after the Canadian prime minister and fellow leaders were caught on tape mocking his long-winded remarks in London.

The president scrapped a closing press conference but said reporters must have been sated by more than two hours of impromptu question-and-answer sessions Tuesday — the very remarks that sparked the hot-mic ribbing from Mr. Trump’s allies.

“There’s no reason to have press conferences because you had about eight of them,” Mr. Trump told reporters.

Mr. Trump’s abrupt departure capped a two-day roller coaster visit in which the president slammed fellow allies for not spending enough on mutual defense and engaged in a tense exchange with French President Emmanuel Macron, who stirred controversy by suggesting the alliance was brain-dead.

Mr. Trump reminded the Turkish president of his commitments to NATO in a one-on-one meeting early Wednesday.

Before leaving, Mr. Trump feted eight nations that are spending at least 2% of their gross domestic product on defense. The benchmark, which the alliance set in 2014 under President Obama, is a calling card for Mr. Trump, who balks at spreading aid around the globe unless other nations do too.

Mr. Trump said Canada’s failure to meet the goal explains why Mr. Trudeau joked about him with Mr. Macron, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and other dignitaries at a Tuesday night reception. In the clip, Mr. Trudeau and the others appear to be laughing in a private chat about how Mr. Trump’s lengthy comments made them late for other events.

“He takes a 40-minute press conference off the top,” Mr. Trudeau says in the clip, captured by a videographer in the traveling press pool.

Mr. Trump hit back.

“Well, he’s two-faced,” Mr. Trump said Wednesday. “I find him to be a nice guy, but the truth is, I called him out on the fact that he’s not paying 2%, and I guess he’s not very happy about it.”

The news conference scheduled for Wednesday would have allowed members of the broader press corps to ask Mr. Trump questions beyond the “pool,” which gets closer daily access to the president’s movements and remarks.

It also would have served as counterprogramming to an impeachment hearing that unfolded on Capitol Hill while the president wrapped up the summit and flew home. Mr. Trump said holding impeachment hearings while he was overseas looked bad for the country.

“To do it on a day like this, where we’re in England [with] some of the most powerful countries in the world having very important NATO meetings — and it just happened to be scheduled on this day. It’s really, honestly, it’s a disgrace,” Mr. Trump said in front of Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte as a House Judiciary Committee hearing got underway in Washington.

“The word ‘impeachment’ is a dirty word,” he said. “That should only be used in special occasions.”

Mr. Trump used the second day of his NATO meetings to honor Estonia, Greece, Latvia, Poland, Romania, Lithuania, Bulgaria and Britain. Those eight nations, along with the U.S., are spending 2% of GDP on defense, up from four nations when Mr. Trump took office.

“We have, unfortunately, a large number that haven’t met the goal,” Mr. Trump said over lunch with the “2 percenters.”

NATO countries agreed in 2014 to hit the benchmark by 2024.

Mr. Trump told German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday that he would like her country to meet the benchmark with greater speed.

They also discussed the security of 5G cellular networks, instability in northern Africa and the Middle East, energy matters and China’s trading practices, according to the White House.

Also Wednesday, the White House said Mr. Trump met with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for 30 minutes and discussed “the importance of Turkey fulfilling its alliance commitments.”

Ankara faces criticism for purchasing a Russian air defense system that is incompatible with its membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

The leaders also discussed ways to boost bilateral trade by $100 billion, energy and security challenges in the region.

Mr. Erdogan recently sent his army into northern Syria to attack U.S.-allied Kurdish militia, which Turkey considers to be terrorists or terrorist allies.

The assault caused a major firestorm in the U.S. because Mr. Trump had withdrawn U.S. forces from the area of the attack, a move widely seen as giving Turkey a green light. Mr. Trump later took credit for a cease-fire.

“We discussed the Kurds. We discussed numerous things, and we’re getting along very well,” Mr. Trump said. “The border and the safe zone is working out very well. And I gave a lot of credit to Turkey for that. The cease-fire is holding very much so, and I think people are surprised.

“Maybe someday they’ll give me credit, but probably not,” he added. “They’ve been trying to work this out for 100 years. That border is a mess for a long time. We pulled our soldiers out and took over the oil. We have soldiers where the oil is. And that’s the way I like it.”

• Tom Howell Jr. can be reached at thowell@washingtontimes.com.

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