During Wednesday’s edition of CNN’s New Day, the panel suffered a meltdown over President Trump’s suggestion that NATO members should pay their fair share and for bringing up Germany’s reliance on Russia for oil. According to co-host John Berman: “This kind of diplomacy looks like Hulk smash. This looks like the avengers, Hulk smash.”
Later, senior political analyst John Avlon lamented that the office President Trump occupies “is the office formerly known as the leader of the free world. And he sure isn’t acting that way.”
President Trump’s “America First” rhetoric has not gone over well with the media. CNN itself had previously reported that both Presidents Obama and Bush had previously urged fellow NATO countries to step it up in the past; yet the media did not display the same outrage back then.
After a report from White House reporter Kaitlan Collins from Brussels, Berman and co-host Alisyn Camerota brought in panelists CNN International/PBS anchor Christiane Amanpour and, former Obama State Department official (turned CNN analyst) Rear Admiral John Kirby.
Amanpour criticized President Trump’s “unprecedented language,” describing it as a “real threat to the alliance.” Amanpour also expressed concern over the future of the “liberal post-war world order that Harry Truman himself signed into being with the NATO declaration 70 years ago.”
Referring to President Trump’s “beef with Europe and the E.U.” with regards to trade, Kirby accused President Trump of “trying to hijack the agenda of this entire NATO summit to focus on this one issue, because to him, this issue gets to using military strength as some sort of…axe over their heads.” Kirby later reiterated this point: “I worry that the President, just focusing on this one thing, is going to waste everybody’s time and efforts. And he’s going to go to meet with Putin, not stronger but weaker.”
Later on and after Berman’s Hulk comparison, he finished the segment by arguing that Putin was been the “big winner” of the NATO Summit. Collins’s earlier report featured video of President Trump refusing to label Putin as either a “friend” or a “foe”, instead referring to him as a “competitor” and arguing that his meeting with the Russian leader “may be the easiest of them all,” as opposed to others with NATO and British Prime Minister Theresa May.
As President Trump continues on his foreign trip, the liberal media will continue to do everything in their power to make him look like an autocrat who presents an unprecedented threat to American democracy along with undermining his presidency at home and abroad.
CNN’s New Day
JOHN BERMAN: So, European leaders, they were braced for tough talk from the President, but the speed and the tone of this, it exceeds even their most anxious expectations, especially the rhetoric toward Germany.
ALISYN CAMEROTA: So they were sitting at that table that you just saw with the cameras rolling, and the President accused Germany of being, quote, “held captive,” end quote, by Russia because of a German-Russian energy deal. And this set off an unusual, tense exchange for the whole world to watch. NATO, of course, has been one of the most important guards against Soviet expansion, communism and terrorism. And the intel community says this is exactly the kind of discord that Vladimir Putin wants. But what about President Trump’s position? Does he have a point? This is just the beginning of the President’s European trip. He will be face to face with Germany’s leader, Angela Merkel, and other European leaders very shortly. So of course, we will bring you that live. But let’s begin our coverage with Kaitlan Collins. She joins us live from the NATO summit in Brussels. Off to a raucus start, Kaitlan.
KAITLAN COLLINS: That’s a good way to put it, Alisyn. President Trump came out swinging this morning. And I should note that he hasn’t even arrived at the NATO headquarters yet. That was just at the breakfast this morning when the President sat down, only minutes into his first event here in Brussels, when he started airing his complaints about defense spending and NATO, singling out Germany and proving every European leader’s worst fear is coming true, that this is going to be a very hostile summit.
PRESIDENT TRUMP: I think that these countries have to step it up, not over a ten-year period. They have to step it up immediately.
COLLINS (voice-over): President Trump blasting America’s top allies over defense spending at a breakfast kicking off this week’s crucial NATO summit.
PRESIDENT TRUMP: No other President brought it up like I bring it up. So something has to be done.
COLLINS: The President directing the brunt of his criticism at Germany, complaining that the U.S. is expected to defend Europe from Russia, despite Germany paying Russia billions for energy.
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Germany is totally controlled by Russia, because they were getting from 60 to 70 percent of their energy from Russia in a new pipeline. And you tell me if that’s appropriate, because I think it’s not. But Germany, as far as I’m concerned, is captive to Russia.
COLLINS: Germany’s Defense Minister addressing criticism of their defense spending to CNN last night.
URSULA VON DER LEYEN, GERMAN DEFENSE MINISTER: This is a pipeline. This economic project started, I think, back in 2002 or ‘03, so way before Russia changed…changed its behavior.
COLLINS: The head of NATO acknowledging that allies are starting to contribute more.
JENS STOLTENBERG, SECRETARY-GENERAL, NATO: Last year was the biggest increase in defense spending across Europe and Canada in a generation.
TRUMP: Why was that last year?
STOLTENBERG: It’s also because of your leadership, and because of your message.
COLLINS: But stressing to President Trump the importance of the alliance.
STOLTENBERG: The strength of NATO is that, despite these differences, we have always been able to unite around our core cause, to protect and defend each other, because we understand that we are stronger together.
COLLINS: The heated start to the summit coming after one senior European official told CNN that NATO members are preparing for the worst-case scenario, many leaders expressing fear that President Trump will follow through on the threat to pull U.S. military protection for countries who don’t reach the 2 percent defense spending target, a goal they’re supposed to hit by 2024.
DONALD TUSK: America, appreciate your allies. After all, you don’t have that many.
COLLINS: Ahead of a trip to the U.K. later this week in his first official summit with Vladimir Putin, President Trump also talking aim at British Prime Minister Theresa May over the ongoing revolt within her party, but not directing any tough talk toward Putin.
TRUMP: I have NATO. I have the U.K., which is, in somewhat, turmoil. And I have Putin. Frankly, Putin may be the easiest of them all.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Would you say Vladimir Putin is a friend or foe?
TRUMP: I really can’t say right now. As far as I’m concerned, a competitor, a competitor.
COLLINS: U.S. NATO Ambassador Kay Bailey Hutchison acknowledging that Moscow welcomes the growing divisions between the U.S. and the European alliance, but attempting to downplay concerns.
KAY BAILEY HUTCHISON: I think the discord is music to Putin’s ears, but I do think that, coming from this summit, which is allied, is strong, and is going to increase our deterrent capabilities. That is going to put President Trump in a very strong position with President Putin.
COLLINS: Now John and Alisyn, Sarah Sanders, the Press Secretary, has confirmed that the President is going to have two one-on-one meetings here in Brussels this afternoon; one with the French President, Emanuel Macron, and another with the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel. She says during that meeting with Merkel, we can expect the president to bring up those heated criticisms that we saw him airing during the breakfast this morning. There won’t be any TV coverage of that event, but we will likely hear from the President on that again. Needless to say, John and Alisyn, we are just getting started.
BERMAN: That will be wicked comfortable. Kaitlan Collins for us at the NATO headquarters in Brussels. Kaitlan, thanks so much. Let’s bring in CNN Military and Diplomatic Analyst, Rear Admiral John Kirby; and CNN Chief International Anchor, Christiane Amanpour. Christiane, as we said, the European leaders, they were expecting tension. They knew these were going to be tough meetings. But this was the breakfast before he even arrived at NATO headquarters. He went in there to send a message, the President did. And he did it clearly, and loudly, and with the sharpest of sharp elbows.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR: You know, it’s even much more than that. It is unprecedented. It violates every norm of an alliance. Specifically, I’m talking about the word “captive” and “controlled by” when he refers to Germany and Angela Merkel being controlled by Vladimir Putin and Russia. It is unprecedented language. It is a real threat to the alliance. It’s a threat to the Democratic, liberal post-war world order that Harry Truman himself signed into being with the NATO declaration 70 years ago. And that is what really worries the alliance right now. They are very, very nervous that this alliance, as well as the G-7, which we saw crumble in disarray back in June in Canada, are being put at threat by the United States right when they need to stand up to Russia, who obviously, President Putin or rather Trump is going to meet right on the heels of the NATO summit. I conducted those two interviews with Ursula von der Leyen, the German defense minister and with the U.S. ambassador to NATO, the former Senator, Kay Bailey Hutchison. They are also concerned. You heard the German Defense Minister push back. This is not a side deal to NATO military spending, as President Trump declared. This was a 15-year-old pipeline treaty with the Russians, way before Russia annexed and invaded Ukraine and took over Crimea. So it’s apples and oranges what’s going on, and it’s a really, really tense moment. And we’ll wait to see precisely what comes out of it. Does President Trump leave in the same way that he left Canada, by pulling the U.S. signature off of the final communique? That is their worst fear in NATO right now.
CAMEROTA: Okay. So Admiral Kirby, I think it is riveting to hear everything that Trump…the case that he was making, President Trump was making to them, in part because I’ve never heard him speak so long. I mean, usually here at home, he says, “The U.S. is being taken advantage of. It’s bad.” But he really laid out his case, okay, in the most fulsome way that…
AMANPOUR: No, he didn’t.
CAMEROTA: …He laid out his case, Christiane, in the most fulsome way that we’ve ever heard President Trump talk. I mean, including at debates. He was…I’m not…listen, you can say it was a compelling case or not, but he sat there and told them…there were a few different points. Number one, why are you saying…if Russia is such a bad actor… let’s start with this one…was his point. If Russia is such a bad actor, why are you dependent upon them for 60 to 70 percent of your energy?
AMANPOUR: They’re not.
CAMEROTA: Okay. I understand. But listen, Admiral Kirby, explain what the response should have been to that.
JOHN KIRBY: Well, I think…to Christiane’s point, I think if I was Jens Stoltenberg, I would make sure he understood that Germany’s trade and energy sector has nothing to do with their commitments to NATO or the purpose of NATO, writ large. Look, Trump is trying to conflate his issues over trade and his beef with Europe and the E.U. with NATO. And he’s using our military strength as the leverage to do that. That’s what he’s really up to here. And I also think, number two, that he’s trying to hijack the agenda of this entire NATO summit to focus on this one issue, because to him, this issue gets to using military strength as some sort of…some sort of axe over our NATO allies’ heads.
BERMAN: Christiane, go ahead. You wanted to jump in.
AMANPOUR: No, look, the facts and figures don’t add up. Yes, the President is raising this pipeline issue. It’s got nothing to do with military spending, as Admiral Kirby has just said. Plus, if you’d continued the conversation that I had with the German defense minister, she pointed out that, actually, they have a very diverse energy supply. There is diversity. They are not dependent on Russia. And she pointed out the other correct fact that, ever since 2014, when Russia changed the rules of the game. Russia changed the rules of the game, let’s say that again. Russia invaded another country and annexed it, changing the rules of the game. That was Angela Merkel who took the lead in standing up to Putin and became the leader of the western alliance in Europe, along with President Obama, and that is when they decided to up NATO’s defense spending. It was then, at the summit in 2014, that they decided to up NATO’s defense spending. And let’s just call a spade a spade. The President says it’s unfair to the U.S. and to the taxpayers, but NATO’s budget is determined on the size of each individual economy. That’s why the U.S. spends more. The U.S. wants to spend more of domestic GDP on its own military. Europe thought that Europe was safe after the collapse of the Soviet Union. It was after Russia changed the rules of the game that they realized they had to spend more. And Jens Stoltenberg told President Trump that that’s exactly what they have been doing. Collectively 5.2 percent more since 2014…
AMANPOUR: …when they took the decision. And the rules say by 2024. Suddenly President Trump wants to change the rules. Okay, that’s his…I guess his view. But NATO, the 29 members of NATO, said that “By 2024 we will achieve that target.” And even the U.S. Ambassador to NATO says that a hundred percent of all NATO members are moving in that direction.
AMANPOUR: I mean, what more does the President want?
CAMEROTA: Well, you heard what he wanted. I mean what he said, Christine, was “They can do it tomorrow. Why do we have to wait til 2024? They could do it tomorrow.”
AMANPOUR: But why? But why?
CAMEROTA: In terms of… because what he’s saying it’s not just that the U.S.’s GDP is more. It’s the percentage. Right? So what he’s saying is why does the U.S. have to shoulder the burden of 4 percent of their GDP when Germany’s paying, I think the number…well, first of all, I don’t even know if these numbers are right. Okay? So he was saying 4.2. We can’t find that.
CAMEROTA: It’s 3.5, but he was using the number 4.2. He was saying when Germany does 1 percent. And so that has stuck in his craw…
CAMEROTA: Yeah. I mean, I get it. He’s not using specifics like you are, or nuance, for that matter, as you are.
AMANPOUR: Look, I’m just talking about agreements, about treaties, agreements and plans.
CAMEROTA: Of course.
AMANPOUR: I mean, business plans exist for a reason, right?
CAMEROTA: Those are immaterial to him.
BERMAN: This is…
AMANPOUR: Okay, fine.
BERMAN: And I don’t want to make light of this, but this kind of diplomacy looks like Hulk smash. This looks like the Avengers, Hulk smash.
CAMEROTA: This is a different style, yes.
BERMAN: He is going…I want to show you what John Kelly, the Chief of Staff, a lifetime Marine general, what he looked like during this breakfast meeting. Let’s just watch.
TRUMP: Controlled by Russia with natural gas. So you tell me, is that appropriate? I mean, I’ve been complaining about this from the time I got in. And a new pipeline. And you tell me if that’s appropriate, because I think it is not, and I think it’s a very bad thing for NATO, and I don’t think it should have happened. And I think we’re going to talk to Germany about it. On top of that…
BERMAN: You see…you see John Kelly there. You see Mike Pompeo, both sitting there stoically. Kay Bailey Hutchison. I’m not sure that they’re down with this whole thing.
JOHN AVLON: Stoically? Yeah. I mean, look, John Kelly was one shot away from a spit take and a face palm, which he has face palmed in the past when the President speaks. And that’s because John Kelly, like many career members of the military, have spent their lives strengthening international alliances that the U.S. leadership built in the wake of World War II, and President Trump seems determined, out of the gate, to undermine those alliances. And the question is who benefits? Because the office he occupies is the office formerly known as leader of the free world. And he isn’t acting that way.
CAMEROTA: Okay, but John Kirby, this has long been a beef of President Trump’s that you …you hear him all the time, the U.S. is being screwed over. And obviously, that’s what some of his voters responded to. And so he just came with that message and just, out of the gate, he decided that that was going to be at the top of the agenda. How do you see it?
KIRBY: Yeah, I think he’s trying to…as I said, I think he’s trying to hijack the agenda for this summit. And to make this the single, most important issues that gets discussed. But what worries me about that, Alisyn, is that there is a lot of good things going on in the alliance. They are transforming. They are standing up two new commands, one in the United States. They are pushing back on Russia with respect to Ukraine. NATO has been a partner and continues to be a partner in Afghanistan, Germany included. So there are a lot of issues that…that need to be discussed going forward, and I worry that the President, just focusing on this one thing, is going to waste everybody’s time and efforts. And he’s going to go to meet with Putin, not stronger but weaker.
BERMAN: Guys, stick around. We have a lot more to talk about, including who has been the big winner so far in this NATO summit. His name rhymes with Vladimir Putin. Actually, it is.