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Photo: Al Drago/Getty Images

President Donald Trump, in a "startling public outburst" at the U.S. chief of mission residence here in Belgium ahead of the NATO summit, said "Germany is a captive of Russia" and "totally controlled by Russia” because of energy purchases.

Between the lines: The gas pipeline is something Trump has been complaining bitterly about for months.

  • He views it as one of Angela Merkel's vulnerabilities, and he fully intends to hammer it at the NATO summit.
  • Sources who've spoken to Trump about the Nord Stream gas pipeline say he has two chief complaints: 1. He wants Germany to buy American gas, not Russian gas. 2. He views Merkel as a hypocrite — always lecturing him about the "rules-based international system," and yet, in Trump's mind, not spending enough on Germany's defense, while sucking up to Iran and Russia.

Earlier in London, I spoke with a former British government official who’s familiar with the planning for Trump’s upcoming visit to England and Scotland:

  • “This is about making Trump feel good about Britain. [A planned visit to] Blenheim [Palace] is about flattering him by association with Winston Churchill — Trump feels he’s a latter day Churchill. And of course he and Melania will be thrilled to have tea with the Queen."
  • “Outcomes ... With this guy, you don’t really expect the usual intensive staff work to produce a significant policy statement. ... It’s about politics, relationships and impressions."
  • "For the Brits, it will be about showing that there’s a great life after Brexit. This week especially, [Prime Minister] Theresa May will be grateful for some nice, touchy-feely remarks from Trump about Brexit and life after Brexit."

Be smart: It looks like the U.K. visit will need to achieve rapid corrective surgery after combative Trump appearances at NATO.

  • Whether she likes it or not, Theresa May is Trump’s bridge between NATO and Vladimir Putin, with whom he meets Mondayin Helsinki.

Go deeper

38 mins ago - Health

First known U.S. case of the Omicron variant identified in California

PhotoL Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The first known U.S. case of the Omicron variant was detected in California, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed Wednesday.

Driving the news: The confirmed case was detected in a traveler returning from South Africa who was fully vaccinated and has mild symptoms, according to the CDC.

Supreme Court appears likely to roll back abortion rights

Abortion rights advocates and anti-abortion protesters demonstrate in front of the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., on Dec. 1. Photo: Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images

The Supreme Court on Wednesday seemed likely to weaken abortion rights and perhaps to let states ban the procedure altogether.

The intrigue: The court seemed likely to throw out the framework established in Roe v. Wade, but it wasn't clear whether a majority of the justices were inclined to overturn the court's precedents entirely.

Felix Salmon, author of Capital
Updated 2 hours ago - Economy & Business

How to meme a painting

Illustration: Megan Robinson/Axios

How can a physical artwork become an NFT? One new company has just spent $12.9 million on a Banksy in an attempt to try out a new way of converting the real into the virtual.

Why it matters: The art market globally sees volume of about $60 billion per year, almost all of which is trade in physical objects. Art-world insiders including former Christie's c0-chair Loïc Gouzer are on the lookout for ways to monetize physical paintings without necessarily giving up physical ownership of them.