Trump cancels Nato conference after video shows world leaders mocking him
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Washington - US President Donald Trump dramatically cut short his attendance at the Nato summit on Wednesday after accusing Canada’s prime minister of being "two-faced".
Trump cancelled a press conference and headed back to Washington after footage emerged of Justin Trudeau and other world leaders apparently gossiping about him.
The embarrassing video showed Mr Trudeau – along with Boris Johnson, French president Emmanuel Macron and Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte – standing in a huddle drinking at Tuesday night’s Buckingham Palace reception. Although Mr Trump was not mentioned by name, they appeared to mock the US President and his long impromptu press conferences earlier in the day.
When asked about the footage and Mr Trudeau at the Nato summit in Watford on Wednesday, Mr Trump responded: "Well, he’s two-faced." He also announced he was cancelling a scheduled press conference for later that afternoon, saying: "We’ll go directly back. I think we’ve done plenty of news conferences." The fractious comments came as Mr Trump braced himself for Congress to hold its first hearing in its ongoing impeachment inquiry.
Although it meant an awkward ending to the summit, the President’s early exit may have been a relief to Downing Street, which had feared a full-scale press conference may have yielded an unhelpful intervention ahead of next week’s election. Mr Trump added that Mr Trudeau was upset that he had been critical of Canada failing to meet a 2 per cent commitment to defence spending.
"They should be paying 2 per cent. So I called him out on that, and I’m sure he wasn’t happy about it, but that’s the way it is. Look, I’m representing the US and he should be paying more than he’s paying, and he understands it."
He said that after a scheduled meeting with Danish leaders, he would ‘probably’ return directly to Washington. He then took to Twitter to cancel a press conference planned for 3.30pm, saying that ‘we did so many over the past two days’.
He also praised alliance members for making ‘great progress’ over the past three years and spending more money on defence.
Last night, CNN reported that Mr Trump was also caught on a microphone that had been left on, congratulating himself for his ‘two-faced’ remark.
He says: "Oh, and then you know what they’ll say. He didn’t do a press conference. He didn’t do a press conference. That was funny when I said the guy’s two-faced, you know that." In his own press conference in the afternoon, Mr Johnson said he had no idea about the discussion at the palace. During the 21-minute conference, he did not mention the President once by name, despite taking repeated questions about him.
Earlier in the day, Mr Johnson had shown his own frustration at Mr Trump’s time-keeping skills.
Mr Trump held up proceedings for several minutes during a televised welcome ceremony at the Grove Hotel in Watford. Nato Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg and Mr Johnson took the stage together to greet each individual leader with a handshake on stage.
An aide came out to tell Mr Johnson there was a delay, and he asked how long it would take.
He then gestured to the wall of cameras, saying "we’re live now". "A half an hour? Forty-five minutes?" Mr Johnson joked.
The aide left and emerged a couple of minutes later.
"How are we doing," Mr Johnson asked. "Come on!" The aide then scurried away and Mr Johnson and Mr Stoltenberg began rocking back and forth on their heels.
At 9.50am, Mr Trump emerged. Mr Johnson gestured him towards Mr Stoltenberg and the trio posed for a photo.
On Tuesday, Mr Johnson avoided being photographed with Mr Trump, sparking speculation that he was worried giving the impression of a cosy relationship could derail his election campaign.
Mr Trump’s early departure yesterday followed a three-hour meeting where alliance members discussed Russia and the threat from China for the first time.
Mr Stoltenberg told a press conference that there was a ‘very good atmosphere’ in the meeting despite their differences.
"We ended the meeting with an applause," he said.