President Donald Trump abruptly canceled a planned news conference on the sidelines of the NATO meeting on Wednesday, after tense exchanges with other world leaders.
“When today’s meetings are over, I will be heading back to Washington,” Trump tweeted. “We won’t be doing a press conference at the close of NATO because we did so many over the past two days. Safe travels to all!”
During a handful of sessions Tuesday with French President Emmanuel Macron, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Trump and his fellow leaders addressed the press for a total of roughly two hours — with the American president dominating most of the discussion.
Those conversations included a number of contentious moments, particularly the bilateral with Macron, with whom Trump clashed over the fight against ISIS.
Those tensions peaked when a video surfaced overnight of other world leaders appearing to mock the president. The clip, which went viral, appeared to show Trudeau, Macron, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte joking about Trump during a reception at Buckingham Palace on Tuesday evening.
Responding to the video Wednesday, Trump blasted Trudeau as “two-faced” and suggested he’d been irked by Trump’s complaints about Canada’s defense spending contributions to the alliance.
Trump’s NATO summit also featured an impromptu huddle with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at a moment when Trump has faced months of scrutiny over the administration’s posture toward Ankara and controversial shifts in Syria policy, coupled with skepticism of Turkey’s place in NATO by some members of the western military alliance.
But getting bad-mouthed by fellow world leaders was hardly the most consequential incident of the multifront battle the president has been waging over the past 48 hours.
Trump’s decision to scrap his news conference came moments before the House Judiciary Committee kicked off its first impeachment hearing, at which the majority of a panel of mostly Democrat-picked legal scholars is set to testify that Trump’s behavior toward Ukraine was “worse than the misconduct of any prior president.”
The president fielded numerous questions about the ongoing impeachment inquiry while in the United Kingdom, kicking off his trip earlier this week by unleashing an attack on Democratic lawmakers for holding hearings while he was abroad.