In an unscripted attack, Donald Trump throws the NATO summit into disarray on Wednesday, denouncing Germany and repeating his false claims of members ripping off the US financially.
Concerns that Trump would wreck any appearance of alliance, before he meets Russia’s Vladimir Putin in Finland on July 16, were immediately borne out at a breakfast meeting with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg.
After Trump’s opening remarks, Stoltenberg spoke about members increasing defense spending, playing to Trump’s ego by crediting it to the President’s “leadership”.
But instead of taking the compliment and building on Stoltenberg’s remarks, Trump savaged one of America’s key allies since 1945. In an ironic assault — given Trump’s own alleged complicity during his campaign and after his inauguration with Russian officials, and his admiration for Putin — the US President asserted:
Germany, as far as I’m concerned, is captive to Russia because it’s getting so much of its energy from Russia. We have to talk about the billions and billions of dollars that’s being paid to the country we’re supposed to be protecting you against.
I think it’s something that NATO has to look at.
The impromptu nature of Trump’s outburst was highlighted by reaction of White House Chief of State John Kelly, who shook his head, then looked away and fidgeted uncomfortably.
Kay Bailey Hutchison, the US envoy to NATO, tried not to react but shifted in her chair and then stared wide-eyed as Trump rambled.
Sarah Huckabee Sanders tried to wish away Kelly’s discomfort over Trump’s remarks, saying the Chief of Staff “was displeased because he was expecting a full breakfast and there were only pastries and cheese”.
3 charts that expose what #Trump does not understand about #NATO. 1. US spends more on US defense than allies spend on their national defense 2. US spends much less on European defense than European allies do 3. European allies pay more than 75% of costs of NATO the organization pic.twitter.com/aU0Uc6bMUq
— NATOSource (@NATOSource) July 11, 2018
Merkel: “We Are United in Freedom”
Trump appeared to be referring to the construction of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline from Russia to Germany, but his attack was filled with distortions. His claim that Germany “will be getting 60 to 70 percent of their energy from Russia” is Berlin’s total imports from all foreign sources. While Germany takes about half its natural gas from Russia, it has a highly-diversified approach, including shares from Netherlands and Norway. Germany takes about 40% of its crude oil and about 30% of its coal from Russian suppliers.
Germany, like other European countries, is storing larger reserves as a precaution against any Russian cutoff.
Far from being “captive” to Moscow, Germany has endorsed tough sanctions on Russia, even when they could hurt German business. Last year Siemens stopped delivery of power plant turbines to a Russian partner because they were being taken into Crimea, taken by Russia from Ukraine in 2014. Chancellor Angela Merkel has bolstered the line with condemnation of Russian aggression.
In contrast, Trump stalled for months before signing Congressional sanctions against Russia over Moscow’s interference in the 2016 election, and his officials have reportedly spoken of easing the measures, a topic that is likely to come up in next Monday’s summit with Putin. Last week National Security Advisor John Bolton cautiously stepped around a question about Trump’s possible support of the Russian annexation of Crimea.
NATO official tells me: "I expected bad, and I kept telling people to expect bad, but it is still surreal to see."
— Noah Shachtman (@NoahShachtman) July 11, 2018
Merkel carefully pushed back Trump’s assault as she entered the NATO building:
I myself experienced a part of Germany that was controlled by the Soviet Union, and I am very happy today that we are united in freedom as the Federal Republic of Germany. We decide our own policies and make our own decisions, and that’s very good.
When she met Trump at a photo opportunity later in the day, Merkel wore a wry smile and looked away as Trump spoke of a “great meeting” discussing defense expenditure and falsely added that NATO was also considering trade.
Then he proclaimed, “We have a very, very good relationship with the Chancellor, a great relationship with Germany.”
Trump avoided questions about his remarks about Germany’s gas pipeline with Russia.
— The Late Show (@colbertlateshow) July 12, 2018
Meanwhile, a “NATO official” summarized:
Everyone is in disbelief, worried [NATO’s] credibility is shot, bracing for what comes out of the private sessions — this thing is just getting started and we still have to make it through the substantive sessions, which will be long and boring. We definitely know we’re going to have to do clean-up; we just don’t know the extent of the damage or whether anyone will take us seriously. And there is still the UK trip and the Helsinki trip, which will color everything here.
— Morning Joe (@Morning_Joe) July 11, 2018
GOP Approves Top Justice Department Despite Russian Connections and No Experience
Senate Republicans have approved Brian Benczkowski to head the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, despite his connection with a Russian bank under scrutiny in the Trump-Russia investigation.
Benczkowski represented Alfa Bank, which has ties with the Kremlin, while he was seeking the Justice post.
In October 2016, the FBI obtained a warrant from a top-secret Federal court to investigate Alfa over possible involvement in the US Presidential election. The Steele dossier, a collection of memoranda on Trump-Russia connections, named Alfa as a financial conduit into the Trump campaign.
Benczkowski served on the Trump transition team and discussed with Attorney General Jeff Sessions whether James Comey would be fired, soon before Trump’s dismissal of the FBI director in May 2017.
A lead staffer when Sessions was in the US Senate, Benczkowski has never tried a legal case.
Benczkowski was approved 51-48, with Joe Manchin of West Virginia the lone Democrat to join the Republicans.
Sessions avoided the issues in welcoming his former aide into his new position, “Brian is an outstanding lawyer with a diverse public service and criminal law background spanning over 20 years.”
Trump’s Spiritual Advisor Defends Immigrant Family Breakups: “Jesus Didn’t Break Any Laws”
Donald Trump’s spiritual advisor Pastor Paula White defends the detention of children separated from undocumented immigrant parents — with a novel rewriting of the Bible.
The chair of Trump’s evangelical advisory board, White said:
Yes, he did live in Egypt for three-and-a-half years. But it was not illegal.
If he had broken the law, then he would have been sinful and he would not have been our Messiah.
Jesus was tried and crucified by Roman authorities for breaking the law by claiming to be the son of God. Before his execution, he was persecuted by religious leaders and the Romans for violating laws such as resting on the Sabbath.
Commenting on her visit to a children’s detention center, she said it was “amazing”.
Some Christian leaders were not impressed:
Jesus was a refugee & did break the law. He was crucified as a felon under Roman law. Christian nationalists like @Paula_White are enabling injustice w/ biblical interpretations that echo #SlaveholderReligion. https://t.co/FhV8qgUn9u
— Rev. Dr. Barber (@RevDrBarber) July 11, 2018
No. Jesus "broke the laws," both religious and civic, several times, which is one of the reasons he was crucified. He healed on the Sabbath, permitted his disciples to pluck grain, had contact with the unclean, and so on. Plus, he was indeed a refugee: https://t.co/sDMECI3IDj https://t.co/sRc4FgqClN
— James Martin, SJ (@JamesMartinSJ) July 11, 2018