Trump identifies EU as ‘foe’ ahead of summit with Putin

US president says European Union has ‘taken advantage’ of US in trade

Donald and Melania Trump depart from Glasgow Prestwick Airport aboard Air Force One on Sunday. Photograph: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

Donald and Melania Trump depart from Glasgow Prestwick Airport aboard Air Force One on Sunday. Photograph: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

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A day before his summit in Helsinki with Russian president Vladimir Putin, US president Donald Trump identified the European Union as a “foe” - ahead of Russia and China.

Mr Trump was speaking to CBS News at his Turnberry golf course in Scotland, in an interview recorded on Saturday and scheduled for full broadcast on Monday. Asked “who is your biggest foe globally right now”, he said: “Well I think we have a lot of foes. I think the European Union is a foe, what they do to us in trade. Now you wouldn’t think of the European Union but they’re a foe.”

Earlier on Sunday, British prime minister Theresa May said Mr Trump advised her this week to “sue” the EU, as she pursues a Brexit deal.

“Russia,” Mr Trump told CBS, “is foe in certain respects. China is a foe economically, certainly they are a foe. But that doesn’t mean they are bad. It doesn’t mean anything. It means that they are competitive.”

Donald Tusk, president of the European Council, used a loaded term to answer Mr Trump on Twitter, writing: “America and the EU are best friends. Whoever says we are foes is spreading fake news.”

On CBS, in response to the suggestion that “a lot of people might be surprised to hear you list the EU as a foe before China and Russia”, Mr Trump said: “No I look at them all, look, EU is very difficult, but in a trade sense, they’ve really taken advantage of us and many of those countries are in Nato and they weren’t paying their bills and, you know, as an example a big problem with Germany.”

The US president then repeated his complaint, made at the Nato summit in Brussels, about a gas pipeline between Germany and Russia.

“You’re supposed to be fighting for someone,” he said, “and then that someone gives billions of dollars to the one you’re, you know, guarding against. I think it’s ridiculous so I let that be known also this time.”

Mr Trump suggested Germany was “waving a white flag” to Russia. Among senior Democrats, concern remains that he may do just that when he meets Mr Putin three days after 12 Russians were indicted over the theft of data from Democratic bodies ahead of the 2016 election.

Extradited

Mr Trump told CBS he “hadn’t thought” about asking Mr Putin to extradite the 12 intelligence officials but added: “But I certainly, I’ll be asking about it.”

It is highly unlikely the Russians will ever be sent to the US. Mr Putin has said Russians indicted by special counsel Robert Mueller - 13 other individuals and three entities were named in February - will “never” be extradited.

Speaking to ABC’s This Week, national security adviser John Bolton said: “The United States does not have an extradition process with Russia so it’s pretty hard to imagine how that would happen.”

It would be “pretty silly to demand something that [TRUMP]can’t get legally”, Mr Bolton said, because “to demand something that isn’t going to happen puts the president in a weak position”.

Mr Trump was briefed on the indictments ahead of their announcement on Friday.

Mr Mueller is investigating election interference and links between Trump aides and Moscow. Four former Trump campaign figures, including his first national security adviser and a campaign manager, have been indicted.

Mr Trump denies collusion and has repeatedly called the Mueller investigation a “rigged witch hunt”.

Speaking to CBS, he repeated a claim made in tweets from Scotland on Saturday - that his predecessor did not do enough in response to Russian interference.

“But again,” Mr Trump said, “this was during the Obama administration. They were doing whatever it was during the Obama administration.”

Mr Obama’s chief of staff, Denis McDonough, has said Republican Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell “dramatically watered down” a statement on Russian interference issued before the election.

Senior Obama adviser Ben Rhodes called McConnell’s actions “staggeringly partisan and unpatriotic”. After the election, Mr Obama imposed sanctions.

Mr Trump said: “And I heard that they were trying, or people were trying, to hack into the RNC too. The Republican National Committee. But we had much better defences. I’ve been told that by a number of people. We had much better defences, so they couldn’t.

“I think the DNC [Democratic National Committee] should be ashamed of themselves for allowing themselves to be hacked. They had bad defences and they were able to be hacked.”

Russian activity

US intelligence chiefs have said the Trump administration is not doing enough to counter continuing Russian activity. On Saturday, homeland security secretary Kirstjen Nielsen told a gathering of state secretaries of state there were no signs Russia was targeting the 2018 midterms at the “scale and scope” of two years ago.

After the indictments were announced, Democrats called for the cancellation of the Helsinki summit, hugely controversial already given Mr Trump’s plan to meet Mr Putin with only translators present.

Mark Warner, ranking Democrat on the Senate intelligence committee, told CNN’s State of the Union on Sunday he was “stunned that this president will not call out Putin’s bad behaviour” and worried that Mr Putin would “take advantage of this president” and extract significant concessions.

Mr Trump defended his decision. “I think it’s a good thing to meet,” he said. “I believe that having a meeting with Chairman Kim was a good thing. I think having meetings with the president of China was a very good thing, so having meetings with Russia, China, North Korea, I believe in it. Nothing bad is going to come out of it, and maybe some good will come out.”

But Mr Trump and Mr Bolton both sought to lower any expectations of serious results in Helsinki. The president told CBS he was “not going with high expectations”. Mr Bolton told ABC the White House was “not looking for concrete deliverables”.

He said: “It’s very important that the president has a one-on-one conversation with president Putin, and that’s how this is going to start off.”–Guardian Service

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