Putin Meeting Might Be ‘Easiest’ of European Swing, Trump Says

President: UK government is in ‘turmoil’ as he heads toward meeting with May and Queen Elizabeth

President Donald Trump talks to reporters as he departs the White House on June 8. Despite sun in the skies over Washington Thursday, he opted to take his motorcade to Joint Base Andrews, meaning reporters were not able to ask any questions. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
President Donald Trump talks to reporters as he departs the White House on June 8. Despite sun in the skies over Washington Thursday, he opted to take his motorcade to Joint Base Andrews, meaning reporters were not able to ask any questions. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Posted July 10, 2018 at 8:32am

President Donald Trump on Tuesday called Vladimir Putin “a competitor” when asked if the Russian president is a foe of the United States, adding that his Monday summit with Putin might be the “easiest” one of his trip.

Trump will first huddle with NATO allies in Brussels, and then head to the United Kingdom for meetings with Prime Minister Theresa May and Queen Elizabeth II. Because NATO allies have “taken advantage” of the U.S. and the U.K. government is in “turmoil,” in Trump eyes, he said this: “Frankly, Putin may be the easiest of them all.”

“Who would think?” he said, before reiterating “the U.K. certainly has a lot of things going on.”

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“It’s going to be an interesting time in the U.K., and it’s certainly going to be an interesting time with NATO,” the president said. “NATO has not treated us fairly, but I think we’ll work something out.”

He said it is too early to tell if Putin is an enemy, repeating his line that it is better to have warm relations with Russia and China.

“I really can’t say right now. As far as I’m concerned, a competitor. A competitor,” Trump said over the loud hum of Marine One’s engines on the South Lawn as the executive helicopter waited to transport him and first lady Melania Trump to Joint Base Andrews for their Air Force One flight to the NATO summit.

His less-than-critical comments about the Russian president come amid the ongoing Justice Department and Senate Intelligence Committee probes of his 2016 campaign’s possible collusion with Moscow and its election meddling offensive.

The president was tweeting Tuesday morning, including more criticism for NATO allies that he long has contended devote too little to the alliance’s coffers, with the U.S. filling that perceived void. Once he stepped out of the White House, where reporters were waiting, he continued to lambaste America’s European allies.

“We cannot be taken advantage of. We’re being taken advantage of by the European Union. We lost $151 billion last year on trade,” Trump said. “On top of that, we spent at least 70 percent of NATO. And, frankly, it helps them a lot more than it helps us.”

And with the outcome of what is expected to be an awkward and tense summit in Brussels, the president turned to one of his verbal crutches that he uses to build drama: “So, we’ll see what happens,” before describing the trip ahead as “a long, beautiful week.”

The president also addressed several domestic matters, including the U.S. Supreme Court pick he announced Monday evening.

He said federal appellate Judge Brett Kavanaugh has received “rave reviews” from members of both parties, even though a number of Senate Democrats already have announced their opposition and none have said they plan to vote to confirm the former George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush White House official who also worked on the independent counsel probe of former President Bill Clinton.

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“I think it’s going to be a beautiful thing to watch over the next month,” he said of Kavanaugh’s confirmation process on Capitol Hill. That is a contrarian view, as lawmakers in both parties and longtime court watchers expect a brutal partisan battle that could stretch into the fall.

And on immigration, the president was asked if he has a solution to what he has called a “crisis” at the U.S.-Mexico border.

“Tell people not to come to our country illegally,” he replied. “That’s the solution.”

Instead, migrants should “come legally,” Trump told reporters. “I’m saying this, very simply: We have laws, we have border. … Come to our country legally.”

Watch: Will Trump’s Goal to Reorganize the Government Get Anywhere? Look to Congress

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