Prime Minister Theresa May and U.S. President Donald Trump attend a joint press conference following their meeting at Chequers. Photo: Jack Taylor/Getty Images
President Trump, speaking at a joint press conference with U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May Friday, dismissed the notion that his repeated criticism of NATO countries will help boost Russian President Vladimir Putin's position ahead of their upcoming meeting in Helsinki on Monday, adding that the U.S. has "been far tougher on Russia than anybody."
Axios’ Jonathan Swan emails from Chequers: Trump “has still not been specific about what he wants to achieve from his meeting with Putin. I asked Trump to tell us the three or four things he wanted to achieve from his meeting with Putin and he just listed topic areas — ‘Ukraine,’ ‘Syria,’ ‘non-proliferation,’ etc. A senior European official told me that when he tried to get an agenda or even goals for the meeting the White House response was very vague.”
"That's dishonest reporting ... We have been far tougher on Russia than anybody, than anybody. Look I’m not gonna go down 100 years, but we’ve been extremely tough on Russia."— President Trump
- Helsinki agenda: Trump, in addition to saying rattling off vague discussion topics, said he will "absolutely" bring up the question of election meddling in his conversations with Putin. "I'm not going in with high expectations, but we may come out with some very surprising things."
- Theresa May said that both she and Trump "agree that it is important to engage Russia from a position of strength and unity, and that we should continue to deter and counter all efforts to undermine our democracies."
- "The Prime Minister would agree, if we have a good relationship with Russia, and with China, and with other countries, that's a good thing," said Trump.
- "President Obama failed very badly with Crimea," Trump said, dodging questions on how Moscow's occupation of the territory affects U.S.-Russia relations. "I don’t think we would’ve done that if I were president…I’m not bad at doing things…so lets see what happens. But this was an Obama disaster."
- From Swan in Chequers: “Trump all but confirmed he had been thinking of drawing down U.S. troops from Europe, [given several NATO countries' failure to meeting spending requirements] but had swung back in the other direction and now supports it.”
- Spending requirements: “The UK is one of a handful of nations… in addition to the U.S. meeting the 2% GDP minimum defense spending commitment,” Trump said, adding that May was “right there with me” on pushing others to increase spending.
- "I can't overestimate how big the meeting with NATO was," Trump continued. "I mean, they had spirit..I'll tell you what, every single person in that room was gung-ho to get it done, get the money in."
- German Chancellor Angela Merkel: "I have a great relationship with Angela," Trump said, before criticizing her on immigration: "It's not politically correct, but I'll say it, anyway. I think they better watch themselves because you are changing culture, you are changing a lot of things ... It’s a very sad situation. It’s very unfortunate."
- Nord Stream II pipeline: To me, it's a tragedy. It's a horrific thing being done ... I believe Germany is going to be getting 50, 60, or even I've heard numbers of 70% of their energy from Russia. How can you be working for peace and working from strength when someone has that kind of power over your country?...You've given up all your strength."