- At the NATO summit in London, President Donald Trump criticized French President Emmanuel Macron for previously saying NATO was experiencing “brain death” due to the lack of U.S. commitment under Trump.
- While condemning Macron, Trump defended NATO, a sharp reversal from previous stances taken by the president.
- Later, Macron and Trump sparred over the Turkish incursion in Syria and Turkey’s relationship with NATO.
- U.S.-French relations have experienced recent strains. The meeting between the two leaders follows an announcement made by the U.S. the day before saying it was considering levying tariffs on $2.4 billion worth of French goods.
Trump Condemns Macron Remarks
President Donald Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron publicly sparred during a meeting on the first day of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) summit Tuesday.
Speaking during a press event with the NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg earlier in the day, Trump condemned a remark made by the French leader in an interview last month.
In that interview, Macron said that NATO was experiencing “brain death” because America’s commitment to the organization has been called into question under Trump.
“NATO serves a great purpose,” Trump said, responding to a question about Macron’s statement. “And I hear that President Macron said NATO is ‘brain dead.’ I think that’s very insulting to a lot of different forces.”
“When you make a statement like that, that is a very, very nasty statement to 28 — including them — 28 countries,” the president continued, referring to the NATO member-states, which number 29.
“They’ve had a very rough year and you just can’t go around making statements like that about NATO. It’s very disrespectful,” he added.
Trump’s defense of NATO came was a surprising reversal from his previous stance on the intergovernmental military alliance, which is celebrating its 70th anniversary.
Trump has a long history of being critical of NATO. He has argued that the U.S. is being treated unfairly by other NATO members because they do not spend as much money on their militaries as the U.S. does.
NATO members are required to spend at least 2% of their GDP on their own national defense. Trump has claimed that many members are not meeting that goal.
Trump also repeatedly called NATO “obsolete” while on the campaign trail, though he later backtracked on those comments once he was elected. And there have been multiple reports that Trump has threatened to pull the U.S. out of NATO altogether.
Even before Trump’s comments, experts and leaders were anticipating tensions and possibly even conflict between Trump and Macron at the summit.
The two leaders, who in the past have had a strong relationship, have recently seen strained ties.
On Monday, just one day before the summit began, the U.S. threatened to put new tariffs on $2.4 billion in French products including wine, cheese, and yogurt.
Trump’s chief trade negotiator said the tariffs would be in response to a French digital services tax that the U.S. believes discriminates against American internet companies.
During the press conference with Stoltenberg, Trump indicated that the U.S. was moving forward with the tariffs.
“They’re starting to tax other people’s products so therefore we’re going to tax them,” the president said. “That’s just taking place right now on technology and we’re doing their wines and everything else.”
However, shortly after, Trump sat down for his meeting Macron, where he emphasized the positive trade relations between France and the U.S. in his opening remarks.
“We do a lot of trade with France,” Trump said. “We have a minor dispute I think we’ll probably be able to work it out. But we have a big trade relationship and I’m sure that in a very short period of time, things will be looking very rosy.”
Trump also went on to say that some NATO members were not paying enough in defense spending, but that the organization has gotten a lot more flexible since he assumed office.
Macron for his part defended his earlier statements about NATO being “brain dead,” and said he stood by it.
The Turkey Situation
The conversation started to escalate when the two leaders began to discuss ISIS and the situation with Syria and Turkey.
Trump and his administration have frequently claimed that ISIS has been defeated in Syria.
This claim, which has largely been debunked, was a big part of the justification for Trump’s decision to remove troops from Northern Syria and step aside to let Turkey launch a military operation to clear Syrian Kurdish groups at the border.
Turkey considers those groups to be terrorists, but the U.S. and many other NATO members consider them key allies who have fought alongside the U.S. to combat ISIS in the region.
The Turkey question also appeared to be a point of conflict between Trump and Macron.
Trump claimed that most of the captured ISIS fighters in Syria were from Europe. Macron responded by contradicting Trump, and pointing out that only a small amount of captured fighters were European.
The French leader also condemned Turkey for fighting against the Kurds and said the situation today has lead to more ISIS fighters in the region and that getting rid of ISIS was the number one priority.
Trump responded by saying that Macron’s response “was one of the greatest non-answers I’ve ever heard.”
Macron hit back by saying that it is not Europe’s responsibility, and added that “any ambiguity with Turkey vis a vis these groups is detrimental to the situation on the ground.”
Still, Trump emphasized his strong relationship with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a move many experts argue will cause even more divisions within NATO.
Erdogan is already in hot water with the alliance over the Turkish incursion in Syria, as well as the fact that Turkey recently purchased an antiaircraft missile system from Russia, which goes against NATO commitments not to buy Russian systems.
Despite the tension between NATO and Turkey, Erdogan has already asked NATO members at the summit to recognize the Syrian Kurdish Forces as a terrorist group.
The Turkish leader also threatened to oppose NATO’s plans to update the defense of member states like Poland and other Baltic countries if the organization does not agree to his demands.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (Axios) (Reuters)
Sanders and Warren Disagree Over CNN Report That Alleges Sanders Said a Woman Couldn’t Win the Presidency
- A CNN report released on Monday alleges that Bernie Sanders told Elizabeth Warren in 2018 that he did not believe a woman could win the presidency, according to four anonymous sources.
- Sanders has denied the claim, calling it “ludicrous.”
- The Washington Post later reported a source as saying that Sanders did not say he did not believe a woman could be president, but rather said Trump would use “nefarious tactics” against the Democratic nominee.
- Warren stood by the original allegation, saying that Sanders disagreed with her that a woman could win the White House but added she didn’t want to discuss the matter any further, calling him an ally and a friend.
A CNN report released on Monday detailed a December 2018 meeting between presidential candidates Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders in which Sanders allegedly said that he did not believe a woman could win the election.
The report said that its details of that encounter were based on accounts from four anonymous people, two that Warren spoke with soon afterward, and two “familiar with the meeting.”
Sanders’ campaign manager, Faiz Shakir, called the assertion a “lie,” and the Vermont senator denied the claim himself in a statement.
“It is ludicrous to believe that at the same meeting where Elizabeth Warren told me she was going to run for president, I would tell her that a woman couldn’t win,” Sanders told CNN.
According to The Washington Post, two people with knowledge of the 2018 meeting told the news outlet that Warren asked Sanders if he thought a woman could win the White House. One of these sources said that Sanders did not say he believed a woman couldn’t win, but rather that Trump would use “nefarious tactics” against the Democratic candidate.
“What I did say that night was that Donald Trump is a sexist, a racist and a liar who would weaponize whatever he could,” Sanders said in his statement. “Do I believe a woman can win in 2020? Of course! After all, Hillary Clinton beat Donald Trump by 3 million votes in 2016.”
But later on Monday night, Warren stood by the initial allegation in a statement tweeted by her communications director.
“Among the topics that came up was what would happen if Democrats nominated a female candidate,” Warren said. “I thought a woman could win; [Sanders] disagreed.”
“I have no interest in discussing this private meeting any further because Bernie and I have far more in common than our differences on punditry,” she added.
Regardless of who said what, both Warren and Sanders supporters were quick to jump online with their opinions.
Many Twitter users expressed anger at the Massachusetts senator, accusing her of lying about Sanders’ comments in order to get ahead in the race. #RefundWarren began trending on Monday night, encouraging people to request refunds for donations to her campaign.
Meanwhile, Sanders supporters fell back on instances in the past where he has been explicit about his belief in equal gender opportunities.
On the flip side, others expressed their belief in Warren’s claims, arguing that she had nothing to gain from being untruthful. Many pledged their unwavering support despite the events unfolding.
Also, the idea that Warren trotted this out to damage Sanders seems very unlikely – she knows that women who complain about sexism are seen as whiners, not winners. I mean look *gestures to the internet right now* around!— Jessica Valenti (@JessicaValenti) January 14, 2020
Others took to Twitter to neutralize the situation, suggesting that pitting two Democratic candidates against each other does nothing productive for the party.
While Warren called her and Sanders long-time “friends and allies in this fight,” their unspoken civil pact has faced obstacles recently.
On Sunday, Politico reported that Sanders volunteers were issued a script that criticized Warren.
In a campaign appearance on Sunday, Warren said she was “disappointed to hear that Bernie is sending his volunteers out to trash me,” and verbalized her hopes that he redirects his campaign for the sake of not dividing their mutual political party.
Sanders denied ever personally attacking Warren and said that each campaign has hundreds of employees who “sometimes say things that they shouldn’t.”
Both the script and he-said-she-said drama unfolded right before the seventh Democratic debate, in which six candidates will be participating—including both Warren and Sanders. The debate will be held in Iowa, which is also where the first-in-the-nation caucuses will take place in about three weeks.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (BBC) (Axios)
Sarah Sanders Apologizes To Joe Biden After Debate Tweet About Stuttering
- At a Democratic presidential debate on Thursday, Joe Biden noted that he personally keeps in touch with children who have speech impediments, speaking with a stutter as he referenced one.
- Former White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders tweeted in response, mocking his delivery.
- Sanders faced a wave of backlash in response to her tweet.
- She apologized after Biden himself, who has personally struggled with a stutter for most of his life, condemned her directly.
Former White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders apologized on Thursday after posting a tweet that seemed to mock people with speech impediments.
Sanders’ post, which has since been deleted, was in response to comments Joe Biden made on Thursday at the sixth Democratic presidential debate, held on the campus of Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles.
At one point, Biden was speaking to the efforts he makes to be accessible to the public. He referenced the “call list” he and his wife have of people with whom they regularly stay in touch. Among these, he said, is a “little kid who says ‘I can’t talk, what do I do?’” Biden stuttered over the “I” and the “what” for emphasis.
“I have scores of these young women and men who I keep in contact with,” he added.
Biden has been open in the past about the stutter he has struggled with for most of his life, most prominently in an interview published last month in The Atlantic. In that piece, he opened up about the ways in which his speech impediment has brought him strife, from being bullied as a child to tripping him up during political speeches.
Shortly after Biden’s comments at the debate, Sanders took to Twitter to address them.
“I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I hhhave absolutely no idea what Biden is talking about,” she wrote, adding the hashtag #Demdebate.
Sanders’ remark was met with a wave of backlash from people across the Internet.
How dare you. And you call yourself a “Christian”? Can you imagine how you would feel if one of your children were a stutterer? But that would require being an empathetic person, of which, clearly, you are not. Not to mention cruel. #SarahSanders— Kathy (@kcday21) December 20, 2019
Sanders attempted to recover from her initial comment in a follow-up tweet that has also been deleted.
“To be clear was not trying to make fun of anyone with a speech impediment,” she wrote. “Simply pointing out I can’t follow much of anything Biden is talking about.”
It wasn’t until Biden responded to her directly in a tweet of his own, pointing to his own struggles, that Sanders apologized.
“I’ve worked my whole life to overcome a stutter,” he wrote. “And it’s my great honor to mentor kids who have experienced the same. It’s called empathy. Look it up.”
“I actually didn’t know that about you and that is commendable,” Sanders replied. “I apologize and should have made my point respectfully.”
Biden used the exchange with Sanders to encourage donations to his presidential campaign.
“If you believe we need to bring empathy back to the White House chip in $5,” he wrote, adding a link to a donation page.
See what others are saying: (Washington Post) (Vox) (New York Times)
Trump Rebukes Impeachment Vote at Michigan Rally: “It Doesn’t Really Feel Like We’re Being Impeached.”
- As the House of Representatives impeached President Donald Trump in Washington, Trump held a Michigan rally where he spent time criticizing the impeachment process.
- After two protesters were escorted out of the rally for causing a distraction, Trump suggested that the security guard should have been more forceful about their removal.
- In another statement, Trump insinuated that John Dingell, a Michigan representative who died earlier this year, was “looking up” from Hell.
Trump: “It doesn’t really feel like we’re being impeached.”
While President Donald Trump was being impeached by the U.S. House of Representatives Wednesday evening, he blasted the entire process at a rally in Michigan.
“It doesn’t really feel like we’re being impeached,” he said at the rally. “The country is doing better than ever before, we did nothing wrong, and we have tremendous support in the Republican Party like we’ve never had before.”
Despite being impeached while speaking in front of his supporters, Trump delayed going onstage for about an hour to watch the tail end of the debate.
During the two hour rally, Trump criticized Democrats, saying they were trying to nullify the votes of millions of Americans. He also suggested former President Barack Obama deserved to be impeached more than he did.
At one point, the crowd began to chant “Lock her up!” in reference to both former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.
However, while representatives cast their votes on the House floor, Trump told his supporters a story about stealth bombers being invisible.
“I said, ‘Fellas, how good is this plane?’” he said, mimicking a conversation between military officials. “They said, ‘Sir, it’s great.’ ‘Why?’ ‘Because the enemy can’t see it.’ That helps: stealth. It’s actually called super-stealth. So I said, ‘So they can’t see so you shoot at them but they can’t—’ He said, ‘They have no idea, sir.’ I said, ‘That sounds good to me.’ Nobody does it and nobody can do it, and we have the whole thing. We’ve ordered a lot of those planes.”
Trump Says Security Should Be Rougher With Protesters
Just prior to Trump’s impeachment, two protesters in the arena unfurled a banner that read, “Don the Con. You’re Fired.”
Trump’s speech is interrupted by protesters who unfurl a banner reading, “DON THE CON. YOU’RE FIRED.” pic.twitter.com/lVpcT5NdK2— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) December 19, 2019
Within seconds, the arena erupted into a series of boos, and one supporter tried to cover up the banner with Trump campaign signs.
Those protesters were then escorted out of the rally by guards, but one of the protesters stuck up her middle fingers to the crowd before leaving. As she began shouting obscenities, the crowd chanted “USA! USA!” in return.
“There’s a slob,” Trump said while suggesting the event would not make mainstream headlines. “There’s a real slob. But wait, wait a minute. She’ll get hell when she gets back home with mom.”
Continuing to speak on the subject of the protesters, Trump then said the security guard should have used more force.
“I’ll tell you the other thing, I don’t know who the security company is, but the police came up, but they want to be so politically correct, so they don’t grab her wrist lightly and get her out,” he said in front of a crowd of laughing supporters. “They say, ‘Oh, would you please come? Would you please come with me? Sir? Ma’am? Would you—’ And then she gives the guy the finger and you know, ‘Oh, oh.’ You gotta get a little bit stronger than that, folks.”
Trump disses a woman protester: “There is a slob, there is a real slob … She will get hell when she comes back home with mom.”— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) December 19, 2019
Trump then laments that security didn’t rough her up as she was getting kicked out. pic.twitter.com/sIFZfg18LQ
Trump Insinuates Dead Representative is Looking up from Hell
One of the key takeaways from the rally occurred when Trump began attacking Democratic Representative Debbie Dingell for voting “yes” to impeachment; however, Trump didn’t so much directly attack Debbie Dingell as he did her dead husband, former Representative John Dingell.
John Dingell represented Michigan from 1955 to 2015 and was the long-serving member of Congress in American history. In February, he died at the age of 92.
Using John Dingell as cannon fodder, Trump mocked Debbie Dingell by recounting a conversation he had with her after her husband’s funeral. Trump then insinuated John Dingell was looking up from Hell.
“‘Do this, do that, do that. Rotunda everything,’” he said, pretending to be Debbie Dingell. “I gave him everything—that’s okay. I don’t want anything for it. I don’t need anything for anything. She calls me up: ‘It’s the nicest thing that’s ever happened, thank you so much. John would be so thrilled. He’s looking down; he’d be so thrilled. Thank you so much, sir.’ I said, ‘That’s okay, don’t worry about it.’ Maybe he’s looking up, I don’t know. I don’t know.”
Shortly after his comment, Debbie Dingell responded to Trump on Twitter.
“Mr. President, let’s set politics aside,” she said. “My husband earned all his accolades after a lifetime of service. I’m preparing for the first holiday season without the man I love. You brought me down in a way you can never imagine and your hurtful words just made my healing much harder.”
Later, another Michigan representative, Republican Fred Upton criticized the president after voting “no” to his impeachment.
“I’ve always looked up to John Dingell – my good friend and a great Michigan legend,” Upton said. “There was no need to ‘dis’ him in a crass political way. Most unfortunate and an apology is due.”
Thursday, on CNN, Debbie Dingell where she said that she never made any of those requests to Trump. She also said Trump was not involved in her husband’s funeral arrangements, also pointing out that her husband didn’t lie in state in the Rotunda. She then said it was Trump who called her to tell her he would be lowering the flags.
Trump’s Twitter Response to Impeachment
On his own Twitter account, Trump has been unsurprisingly active, but following the impeachment votes Wednesday night, he did not make any direct statements on the platform until Thursday morning.
Instead, he opted for retweeting a flurry of tweets from conservative lawmakers and supporters.
“100% Republican Vote,” he said on Twitter Thursday. “That’s what people are talking about. The Republicans are united like never before!”
Later in the morning, Trump took a jab at Pelosi, calling the impeachment vote a hoax because of her refusal to send the articles of impeachment to the Senate. For her part, Pelosi has said she wants to hold the articles until she is sure the Senate will hold a fair trial.
“Pelosi feels her phony impeachment HOAX is so pathetic she is afraid to present it to the Senate, which can set a date and put this whole SCAM into default if they refuse to show up!” Trump wrote. “The Do Nothings are so bad for our Country!”
Currently, Trump has also pinned a tweet with a picture of him reading, “In reality, they’re not after me. They’re after you. I’m just in the way.”