After NATO Hot Mic, Trump And Trudeau Trade Barbs

Dec 4, 2019
Originally published on December 4, 2019 10:44 am
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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

The NATO summit in London has exposed quite a few rifts over the role of Turkey in the alliance, for one, and President Trump's close relationship with that country and also a few personal divisions as well. For that, we turn to NPR's Frank Langfitt, who's been following this story in London. Hi, Frank.

FRANK LANGFITT, BYLINE: Hi, Rachel.

MARTIN: So we got a hot mic, we got a Canadian prime minister and a cancelled press conference by Trump.

LANGFITT: Yeah.

MARTIN: What happened?

LANGFITT: Well, what happened was Prime Minister Trudeau was caught last night at a public meeting - I believe it was at Buckingham Palace - seeming to be mocking the president for a very long, impromptu press conference with Emmanuel Macron, the president of France, yesterday. And he said, even the - what he said is that even some of Trump's staff had their mouths open. Now, the president was upset about this and talked about it today, and this is what he had to say about Prime Minister Trudeau.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Well, he's two-faced.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Do you think that Germany's too...

TRUMP: And honestly, with Trudeau, he's a nice guy. I find him to be a very nice guy. But, you know, the truth is that I called him out on the fact that he's not paying 2%, and I guess he's not very happy about it.

MARTIN: OK, so Frank, explain...

LANGFITT: Sure (laughter).

MARTIN: ...What he's referring to there - the 2%.

LANGFITT: What he's talking to there is - President Trump has criticized many countries - legitimately - one, apparently, including Canada - for not spending the 2% of GDP on defense, which is a NATO guideline. And what the president is suggesting here is that Prime Minister Trudeau was just getting back at him. In fact, Prime Minister Trudeau said, no, no, no, I'm glad that we bring this up; it is an issue. And so that's what the president was referring to.

MARTIN: And so did he cancel his press conference later today because of all this? Or we don't know?

LANGFITT: Well, he did. He has canceled it. And it certainly would appear to be that he did so in a fit of pique. This isn't the first time that he's walked out of these meetings. You remember last year, 2018, the G-7 in Canada - he walked out of that meeting as well. So, yes. And actually, things have been going relatively well here, at least in terms of the way people were perceiving Trump - President Trump's behavior.

MARTIN: So why? I mean, what has changed in relation? Because, as you note, he has been a difficult guest sometimes at these gatherings. So what do we know has changed?

LANGFITT: I think a number of things. I think that he's aware of that. He has often come into these NATO meetings criticizing the other members. But, you know, one thing is Boris Johnson, the president - the prime minister of the United Kingdom, had asked him to stay out of the election, which is coming up, and the president has abided by that. But what seems has happened most recently is this hot mic, if you will, with Trudeau really seemed to set him off.

And what's really interesting, Rachel, is even Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London, who is often - he gets into Twitter spats with the president of the United States - even he had - was singing President Trump's praises early this morning before the president got mad and pulled out. And this is what Mayor Khan had to say to us.

SADIQ KHAN: Donald Trump's been the president for three-odd years. It's the first time I can say, hand on heart, so far, he's been impressive. This was a president who called NATO obsolete. The fact that he's not said anything offensive, he's not threatened NATO, he's not caused grief, so far, leads me to be impressed by him.

MARTIN: So that's where the bar is?

LANGFITT: (Laughter) Yes. And also, as you can see, Mayor Khan was speaking just as the president was losing his cool.

MARTIN: Anything we should take away from this latest spat between Trump and Trudeau and to the larger summit?

LANGFITT: Yeah. You know, I think it's a distraction, Rachel. NATO faces very big challenges and issues. There's divisions over how to approach Russia - as you mentioned, Turkey, the question of how to address terrorism. This is a - it's supposed to be the 70th birthday of NATO, and what you see is a lot of division in NATO and, unfortunately, the United States, the biggest military power and the most important power, you know, walking away. It's not something that you want to see given the challenges that NATO faces.

MARTIN: NPR's Frank Langfitt in London. Thank you.

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