President Donald Trump arrived at the NATO summit near London on Wednesday for what are expected to be a series of tough meetings with world leaders, as the House Judiciary Committee is scheduled to hold its first hearing as part of the ongoing impeachment inquiry.
Trump’s arrival was delayed, meaning British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg were kept waiting to shake hands and formally welcome the President.
“How long do you think?” Johnson was heard asking an aide. The Prime Minister and Stoltenberg stood on the stage in front of the cameras, talking quietly among themselves as they awaited Trump.
“How we doing, folks?” Johnson asked at one point.
When Trump arrived, he shook hands with Johnson, then Stoltenberg, and posed between the two for a photo. He initially exited the stage on the wrong side but Johnson pointed him in the right direction.
In a brief statement before the start of the meeting, Johnson pressed NATO leaders to remain unified amid tensions in the alliance on its 70th anniversary.
The Prime Minister spoke of the principle underpinning NATO, saying “that for as long as we stand together, no one can hope to defeat us — and therefore no one will start a war.”
On Tuesday, the tensions were evident as Trump spent the day in a series of meetings headlined by a clash with a key ally — France — while praising an alliance member many other NATO members are concerned about — Turkey. Late Tuesday evening, a video went viral showing world leaders at the summit appearing to joke about Trump.
Trump, in one of three extended press availabilities during his bilateral meetings on Tuesday, was particularly critical of French President Emmanuel Macron’s comments last month that NATO was facing a “brain death” caused by American indifference to the transatlantic alliance. In a morning meeting, Trump said the comments were “nasty” and “insulting.” Later when the two leaders were face to face, Macron refused to back down, saying he stood by his comments.
Trump expressed gratitude toward Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, despite Macron’s concerns over the country’s recent actions in Syria and its acquisition of the S-400 missile system.
Trump said Tuesday that he was not focused on impeachment while abroad but also spent portions of his busy day telling members of the press that the inquiry was a “hoax” and sharing several tweets about impeachment.
Between tea with Prince Charles and opening receptions around London later that evening, House Democrats released findings from their impeachment hearings, which claimed evidence of Trump’s misconduct and obstruction of Congress is “overwhelming” and charged that Trump’s conduct toward Ukraine compromised national security.
The President’s extended and at times unwieldy sessions in front of the press were unconventional for a summit which is typically focused on formal diplomacy, and his behavior appeared to be a buzzy topic among other leaders.
In a video that was first circulated by CBC, Macron, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte appeared to jokingly chat about Trump’s lengthy press availabilities held during his meetings. The White House declined to comment on the video and Trump has not spoken publicly about it. Spokesmen for Macron, Trudeau and Rutte declined to comment.
Trump tweeted on Wednesday that he met with British Prime Minister Johnson Tuesday evening at 10 Downing Street, during which they discussed “numerous subjects including NATO and Trade.”
A one-on-one meeting with Johnson was not on Trump’s schedule for the summit but he did attend a reception for NATO leaders hosted by the Prime Minister.
Trump’s Wednesday events
Trump’s Wednesday morning is slated to begin with the official welcoming ceremony, followed by a bilateral meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Trump and Merkel have long butted heads over a number of issues, and notably, Trump has pressed Germany to contribute more to defense spending as part of its commitment to NATO. Last month, Germany said it would reach the 2% spending target by 2031 — seven years past NATO’s goal date.
During last year’s summit, Merkel hit back at Trump’s claim that “Germany is a captive of Russia” by drawing on her own upbringing in Soviet-controlled East Germany, saying that she’s “very happy that we are today unified in freedom as the Federal Republic of Germany.”
In the afternoon, Trump is scheduled to take part in a working lunch with representatives of Estonia, Greece, Latvia, Poland, Romania, Lithuania, Bulgaria and the UK.
He’s also slated to hold bilateral meetings with Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen and Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte.
Earlier this year, Trump canceled a trip to Denmark over comments made by Frederiksen. After Trump expressed interest in buying Greenland, Frederiksen called the idea “absurd.” Trump, in turn, called the Danish prime minister’s comments “nasty” and “inappropriate.”
The President also said he may meet with Erdogan, but a one-on-one meeting has not been announced.
Before boarding a flight to Washington, Trump will hold a press conference on the grounds of the summit.