LONDON — President Donald Trump accused the Democrats of being unpatriotic and said they were hurting the country with their impeachment inquiry as he prepares to meet with world leaders here on Tuesday.
“I think it’s very unpatriotic of the Democrats to put on a performance where they do that,” Trump said in his first public comments since arriving in London. “I do. I think it’s a bad thing for our country. Impeachment wasn’t supposed to be used that way.”
The president also came out swinging at one of the U.S.’s closest allies, slamming comments by French President Emmanuel Macron and suggesting trade deal negotiations with China might not end until after the election next year.
Trump made the comments during a wide-ranging question-and-answer session with reporters that lasted nearly an hour, with the head of NATO Jens Stoltenberg seated alongside him.
He added that he doesn’t expect the inquiry to impact his discussions at the gathering.
“I know most of the leaders, I get along with them. It’s a hoax. The impeachment is a hoax. It’s turned out to be a hoax. It’s done for purely political gain,” Trump said.
While Trump does have a day of meetings planned with world leaders to go over a range of issues including Syria, Iran and China, his moment on the international stage is at risk of being upstaged by the intensifying impeachment inquiry back home.
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The House Intelligence Committee is due to deliver to the Judiciary Committee its report on the president’s dealings with Ukraine. This included witnesses testifying to the particulars of Trump freezing aid to that country while directing top lieutenants to work through his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, to pressure officials in Kyiv to open investigations into the Bidens and a conspiracy theory that claimed Ukraine framed Russia for interfering in the 2016 election.
House Judiciary Committee’s first impeachment hearing is scheduled for Wednesday when Trump will be holding another day of meetings.
‘Very, very nasty’
In a sign the relationship between Trump and France’s Macron may be souring, Trump called recent comments by the French president critiquing NATO “insulting” and a “very, very nasty statement.” Trump went on to criticize Macron’s handing of his country’s own economy in his first public comments here.
Macron, who Trump will meet with later in the day, recently warned European allies that they could no longer rely on America to help defend them and that “we are currently experiencing is the brain death of NATO.”
Trump, who as a candidate called NATO “obsolete,” once again threatened a tax on French wine in retaliation for a French tax on U.S. tech companies, saying “if anyone is going to take advantage of those companies it would be the U.S.”
“You have a very high unemployment rate in France. France is not doing well economically at all,” Trump said. He added that “they had a very rough year, and you just can’t go around making statements like that about NATO. It’s very disrespectful.”
On China, Trump suggested he may wait until after the election to sign a trade deal, after repeatedly saying he was very close to getting a deal done. The protracted trade war has been a point of contention with the other European allies.
“In some ways, I like the idea of waiting until after the election for the China deal,” Trump said.
Trump has had a tumultuous past with NATO. At his first summit, he shocked leaders when he failed to reaffirm a core principle of the alliance — that an attack against one member is an attack on all. During last year’s gathering, he threatened that if members didn’t immediately increase their defense spending, the U.S. would pull out of the alliance.
Trump touted his success at squeezing more money out of America’s allies to spend on their militaries, including South Korea. He said he met with South Korean officials six or seven months ago and told them “you have to pay up” because they weren’t spending enough on their defense while the U.S. was sending billions. Trump said after the conversation, South Korea added $500 million to its military budget.
There was no immediate reaction from Seoul to Trump’s statements.
Trump also took credit for NATO member countries increasing spending by about $130 billion between 2016 and 2020, higher than previously forecast.