Trump and Macron clash at NATO summit
French President Emmanuel Macron played the role of fact-checker when President Donald Trump repeated one of his regular false claims about ISIS fighters.
Trump claimed again that ISIS prisoners being held in Syria are "mostly from Europe." This assertion has been repeatedly contradicted by Trump's own officials.
James Jeffrey, Trump's special envoy to the anti-ISIS coalition, said on August 1 that about 8,000 of about 10,000 terrorist fighters being held in northeastern Syria were Iraqi or Syrian nationals; he said there were "about 2,000 ISIS foreign fighters" from all other countries.
Macron responded that "there are a large number of fighters you have on the ground: ISIS fighters coming from Syria, from Iraq, and the region."
While it is true that some came from Europe, he said, they are "a tiny minority of the overall problem."
French President Emmanuel Macron and President Trump just had a tense news conference at the NATO summit in London. The two world leaders clashed over several issues in front of reporters.
Here's what happened:
Macron corrected Trump about the number of ISIS fighters with European backgrounds after Trump asked if France was willing to take back French terrorists captured in Syria and Iraq.
"Let's be serious: The very large numbers of fighters you have on the ground are the fighters coming from Syria, from Iraq and the region," Macron said.
He added that those coming from Europe are "a tiny minority of the overall problem."
Trump and Macron had different answers when asked about how NATO members should interact with Russia. Trump said, "I think we get along with Russia" — and then pointed to Macron and added that France has a similar view.
But later, Macron said that while it is "important to have a strategic dialogue with Russia," leaders "must do so without naïveté."
Macron addressed the comments he made earlier today — he described the long-time NATO coalition as suffering from "brain death" in part due to a lack of US leadership under Trump — and refused to back down.
"I know that my statements created some reaction," Macron said. "I do stand by [them]."
Before the news conference with Macron, Trump described Macron's "brain death" comments as "nasty" and "insulting."
President Trump contradicted Secretary of State Mike Pompeo today when he told the press in London that he doesn't back Iranian protestors, despite Pompeo saying last week that the US does support the protestors.
"I don't want to comment on that. The answer is no," Trump said when asked whether he backs the protestors.
In a tweet Saturday, Pompeo wrote: “As I said to the people of Iran almost a year and a half ago: The United States is with you.” Pompeo, attached his tweet from 2018 in which he told Iranian protesters that the “the United States hears you, supports you and is with you.”
On Monday, Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman slammed Pompeo for the comments.
President Trump was asked for his view on NATO's relationship with Russia.
"I think we get along with Russia," said Trump. Pointing towards Macron, he adds: "We have a similar view on that."
Trump said his message of closer relations with Russia has gone down well with supporters, during his rallies.
"I think the Russian people would like to see it too," Trump added, alluding to closer ties with Russia.
"The purpose of NATO can be much more, and I think we've shown that flexibility over the last few years," he said.
President Trump praised the bystanders who fought off the attacker who killed two people on the London Bridge last week.
Dramatic video from the bridge showed a group of bystanders subduing the attacker, one by spraying him with a fire extinguisher and another.
When Trump was asked if he had a comment on the attack, he said:
"No, I don't have the comment on the London Bridge attack other than to say I was very proud of those people grabbed him and did such a good job between the fire extinguisher and whatever else, it was an amazing job they did."
"I think the way — I think they were British citizens — the way they stepped up was incredible. That was really great," he added.
Trump called the terror attacker "very violent" and said the attack was "a terrible thing."
French President Emmanuel Macron pushed back after President Trump asked if France was willing to take back French terrorists who have been captured in Syria and other regions.
"We have a tremendous amount of captured fighters, ISIS fighters over in Syria. And they're all under lock and key, but many are from France. Many are from Germany, the UK. They're mostly from Europe. And some of the countries are agreeing. I have not spoken to the President about that. Would you like some nice ISIS fighters? I can give them to you," Trump said.
Macron acknowledged that some fighters come from Europe — but said most of them are from the Syria and Iraq region.
"Let's be serious: The very large numbers of fighters you have on the ground, are the fighters coming from Syria, from Iraq and the region," Macron said. "It is true that you have foreign fighters coming from Europe, but it's a tiny minority of the overall problem we have in the region." he said.
He continued: "The No. 1 priority — because it's not yet finished — is to get rid of ISIS and terrorist groups.This is out No. 1 priory."
President Trump, when asked about NATO spending, said countries that aren't investing enough in defense will be "dealt with."
"Maybe I'll deal with them from a trade standpoint. Maybe I'll deal with them in a different way... we don't want to have people be delinquent," Trump told reporters while sitting next to French President Emmanuel Macron.
Trump added that it's not fair to the US — or to France — if other countries "aren't paying their way" in NATO.
Trump also said that NATO has made a lot of progress since he took office, telling reporters, "it's very important to me."
French President Emmanuel Macron, sitting alongside President Trump in London, said he stands by his comments about NATO – describing it as a “burden we share.”
Macron a few weeks ago described NATO as being “brain dead” – comments Trump described earlier Tuesday as “nasty” and “insulting.”
“I know that my statements created some reaction,” Macron said in English. “I do stand by [them].”
President Trump claimed that NATO countries are contributing more financially because of him.
"What I'm liking about NATO is that a lot of countries have stepped up. I think, really, at my behest," he said at a news conference speaking alongside French President Emmanuel Macron. He added that France is "close to the level."
"They've stepped up and they've put up a lot of money. I told you it was $130 million — $130 billion, and that's a lot. And they're now stepping up again. It's going to be $400 billion," he added.
NATO members' financial contributions have long been a complaint for Trump: In 2017, he chided NATO member countries directly for not meeting their financial commitments to the alliance and declined to reiterate US commitment to the alliance's mutual defense pledge.
Remember: Last week, the Trump administration moved to substantially cut its own contribution to NATO's collective budget according to several US and NATO officials.