President Donald Trump predicted Tuesday that his upcoming summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin “may be the easiest” of the meetings he has scheduled for his weeklong trip to Europe.
The president departed Tuesday for his trip, which will take him first to Brussels, where he will attend the NATO summit on Wednesday and Thursday. From there, Trump will travel to the United Kingdom, the government of which has been roiled in recent days by the resignation of top Cabinet officials, for bilateral meetings.
Trump will meet with Putin next Monday in Helsinki.
“So 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. Who would think? Who would think?” Trump told reporters as he departed the White House Tuesday morning. “But the U.K. certainly has a — they have a lot of things going on.”
Trump has faced significant scrutiny for his willingness to meet with Putin amid an ongoing investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election and allegations that the Trump campaign colluded in those efforts. The president has insisted that there was no collusion and that the investigation is a “witch hunt.”
The Russian government, and Putin himself, have steadfastly denied any efforts to interfere in the 2016 election, a denial that Trump has at times seemed hesitant to reject even though the U.S. intelligence community has been unanimous in its conclusion that the Kremlin was behind the interference efforts.
With NATO meetings upcoming on Wednesday and Thursday, Trump has renewed his criticisms of the treaty organization, chiefly that its member states do not spend enough on defense, leaving the U.S. to carry too much of the mutual-defense burden. He wrote on Twitter Tuesday that “NATO countries must pay MORE” and “the United States must pay LESS.”
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