Trump calls Trudeau ‘two faced,’ ‘very nice guy’ after candid video surfaces

Lee Berthiaume, The Canadian Press | posted Thursday, Dec 5th, 2019

Donald Trump called Justin Trudeau “two-faced” but also a “very nice guy” after the Canadian prime minister was caught on video seemingly talking critically with other world leaders about the U.S. president.

The video was shot during a reception at Buckingham Palace on Tuesday night, hours after Trudeau and Trump met on the sidelines of a gathering of leaders from the NATO military alliance. It immediately sparked concerns about a possible backlash against Canada from the prickly president.

The footage shows Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson asking France’s President Emmanuel Macron why he was late, to which Trudeau can be heard saying: “He was late because he takes a 40-minute press conference off the top.”

The leaders do not use Trump’s name, but the U.S. president took dozens of questions from journalists on Tuesday during impromptu news conferences at the starts of his individual meetings with Macron, Trudeau and NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg.

Trump’s public appearance with Trudeau lasted more than half an hour and included questions about China and the impeachment process and also saw the Canadian prime minister trying to deflect questions from the U.S. president about Canada’s defence spending.

The reception footage also shows Trudeau saying “his team’s jaws drop to the floor” about someone, though it’s not completely certain whom he’s talking about.

During a meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday, Trump was asked about Trudeau’s comments, to which the U.S. president responded: “He’s two-faced.”

But the president, who has never shied away from lashing out over perceived insults, including from other world leaders, quickly added: “But honestly, with Trudeau, he’s a nice guy. I’ve found him to be a very nice guy.”

Trump went on to suggest Trudeau was upset that the U.S. president had called out Canada for not spending two per cent of its gross domestic product — a common measure of national wealth — on its military, as all NATO allies have agreed to do.

“He’s not paying two per cent and he should be paying two per cent,” Trump said. “It’s Canada, they have money and they should be paying two per cent. So I called him out on that and I’m sure he’s wasn’t happy about that, but that’s the way it is.”

Canada is currently spending 1.31 per cent of its GDP on defence.

The surprisingly gentle rebuke — at least by Trump’s standards — follows concerns Trudeau’s comments could result in a backlash against Canada from the president, who only this week blasted French President Emmanuel Macron.

Macron had suggested the NATO alliance was suffering from “brain death” because of a lack of communication and co-ordination, particularly with regards to U.S. and Turkish actions in northeastern Syria.

Trump described Macron’s comments as “very nasty” before criticizing France’s economy and warning the European country needed NATO far more than the U.S.

The U.S. president also previously attacked Trudeau following the G7 summit in Quebec City in June 2018, describing the prime minister as “so meek and mild” amid a trade row over Canadian dairy and American tariffs on Canadian steel and aluminum, and then accusing him of making false statements once Trump was gone.

“Very dishonest & weak,” Trump tweeted.

The new video nonetheless threatened to undermine not only Trudeau’s efforts to boost the NATO alliance at a time of internal divisions and external threats, but also Canada’s own relations with the White House.

At his summit-ending news conference, Trudeau said he has a very good and constructive relationship with Trump that has allowed them to move forward on the renewed NAFTA deal and steel tariffs which the U-S lifted.

Trudeau also announced Canada would make a full fighter-jet squadron and several naval warships available for a NATO deployment on 30 days notice as the alliance seeks to boost its ability to respond rapidly to emergencies.

The video of Trudeau, who was speaking to Johnson, Macron, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte and Princess Anne, quickly went viral after it was released and was reported on by international media outlets, including the New York Times, Fox News and the BBC.

Conservative foreign affairs critic Erin O’Toole criticized the prime minister on Twitter, saying: “I am taking the side of comporting oneself with professionalism on the world stage when you represent more than just yourself.”

Yet others praised the prime minister for what they saw as his speaking the truth about Trump, who is deeply unpopular in many quarters.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg made no reference to Trudeau’s exchange as he formally ended the summit.

Members reiterated the alliance’s founding principle that an attack on one represents an attack on all, and recommitted to spending more on defence.


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