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Trump Has First News Conference With A Foreign Leader


People in Great Britain were closely watching the meeting between their prime minister and President Trump. NPR's Frank Langfitt followed events from London and joins us. Frank, thanks for being with us.

FRANK LANGFITT, BYLINE: Good morning, Scott.

SIMON: And were the headlines in the U.K. different than what they were here, do you think?

LANGFITT: Well, I think what people here were focusing on - the first thing was what Prime Minister May had to say about NATO, and what she said is that President Trump fully supports NATO. And of course, this is a military alliance that's kept peace in Europe for decades. And here's what May had to say.


PRIME MINISTER THERESA MAY: On defense and security cooperation, we're united in our recognition of NATO as the bulwark of our collective defense. And today, we've reaffirmed our unshakeable commitment to this alliance. Mr. President, I think you said you confirmed that you're 100 percent behind NATO.

LANGFITT: Now, Scott, this is really important and should be a big relief to people in Europe. You know, during much of the presidential campaign in the states, Mr. Trump was highly critical of NATO. He said it was obsolete, Cold War relic and that a lot of European countries were just freeloading on the U.S. military. This scared people in Europe because Europe relies on the U.S. military. And what they're kind of worried about is if the U.S. doesn't show a lot of resolve, that could be a green light to Vladimir Putin to get even more aggressive with other states sort of near his borders with Russia. So what we're seeing here, I think perhaps, is Trump's thinking evolving. He's been relying a lot on the new defense secretary, James Mattis, who earlier this week used the exact same language Prime Minister May used - unshakable commitment to NATO. So it now looks like Theresa May and Secretary Mattis are both kind of working with the president to kind of bring him around.

SIMON: Frank, did you notice any kind of small notes in these exchanges that might give us some insight into really both of these relatively new leaders?

LANGFITT: Well, yeah, you know, one thing that was interesting is getting a sense of Trump's thinking on European institutions. You know, recently he said he didn't care about the European Union and what happened there. That's a giant trading block. That's another thing that alarmed people here. The European Union's very controversial, but again, it has done a lot to keep the peace. And what happened was if you were listening to this press conference, he said one reason he didn't like the EU - he never named it, but he said was that this organization he was talking about had given him headaches as a businessman.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: And I had a very bad experience. I have - I had something when I was in my other world. I have something in another country and getting the approvals from Europe was very, very tough. Getting the approval...

LANGFITT: And so what he's actually talking about - seems to be talking about here - is this battle he had over a seawall for a golf course in Ireland. The EU was actually protecting some snails, and the snails won. So Trump wasn't able to build his big wall; had to build two - I think he's going to build two smaller ones. But this tells you a lot about how his experience as an overseas businessman is shaping his thinking as president. And that could have a big influence here in Europe.

SIMON: This would not seem to be a match, an obvious political match, because Theresa May is a vicar's daughter and a longtime figure in British politics. Donald Trump, of course, is new - almost brand new - to U.S. politics. Did they seem to get on?

LANGFITT: Not that badly considering how incredibly different they are. There was one awkward moment where May chose a BBC reporter who ended up asking a really tough question that Trump hated. And he said, well, there goes that relationship (laughter) kind of, you know, criticizing May. On the other hand, you know, when they were walking at the White House, there was this moment where he actually held May's hand as they walked down some stairs. And it was - it wasn't the kind of thing we always think about when we think about Mr. Trump and women. It was sort of a very gracious note. And so I think that maybe was reflective of the beginning of what hopefully will be a pretty good relationship.

SIMON: NPR's Frank Langfitt, thanks so much.

LANGFITT: Happy to do it, Scott. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Frank Langfitt is NPR's London correspondent. He covers the UK and Ireland, as well as stories elsewhere in Europe.
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