During a White House meeting with leaders of the Baltic states on Tuesday, President Donald Trump took some shots at his former presidential campaign opponent.
Trump discussed NATO funding with the presidents of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, pointing out that NATO member states are expected to contribute at least 2 percent of their GDP on defense spending annually, a benchmark many European nations consistently missed during previous administrations.
“You look at what’s going on, Germany pays 1 percent, the United States is paying close to 4 percent (of GDP on defense),” Trump told leaders and reporters in the Cabinet Room, according to The Daily Caller. “The United States, as you said, is paying 80 percent of the cost of NATO. Do you think that’s fair?”
He continued, “With all of that being said, because of me and you can speak to the head of NATO, Mr. Soltenberg, he said that because of what I’ve said to the countries, they’ve taken in … many billions of dollars more than they would have had if you had ‘Crooked’ Hillary Clinton as president. That I can tell you. Many billions of dollars more.”
As noted by Mediaite, a number of liberal reporters and former Obama officials lost it on Twitter following the president’s swipe at Clinton in front of foreign leaders.
A reporter for The New York Times tweeted that Defense Secretary James Mattis “looks down” at the table as Trump dropped the “Crooked Hillary” line, implying he disagreed with it. An NPR reporter choose to use all caps in a tweet noting the swipe occurred “IN A MEETING WITH WORLD LEADERS.”
A Democrat consultant with an anti-Trump blog called Trump a “lunatic” for using the nickname in front of the Baltic leaders, and in a follow up tweet suggested the left concoct a similar nickname with which to slam Trump in order to drive him “nuts” and push him closer to impeachment.
Then there was former Obama adviser Ben Rhodes, who stated that even if some Americans had grown numb to the phrase, it nevertheless “makes us an embarrassment around the world” for Trump to use it in front of foreign leaders, particularly those threatened by Russia.
The topic of Russia was certainly part of the conversation given its proximity and past history with the Baltic states. Trump made it clear in the meeting that under his administration the United States has been “very tough on Russia.”
“Nobody has been tougher on Russia, but getting along with Russia would be a good thing, not a bad thing,” Trump stated. “And just about everybody agrees to that except very stupid people. We’ve been very tough on Russia, frankly.”
As evidence of that toughness, Trump cited the increased defense spending by NATO countries and the expulsion of Russian diplomats following the poisoning of a former Russian spy in the United Kingdom.
(He could have also noted the Patriot missile-defense batteries recently sold to Poland, or other lethal military arms sold to Ukraine, or sanctions on Russian oligarchs, or the destruction of a unit of Russian mercenaries in Syria.)
Trump also pointed to the increased importation of U.S. liquefied natural gas by European nations to reduce their reliance on Russian energy exports, which led to his next swipe at Clinton: “My opponent was into other forms of energy, like windmills.”
That increased importation of U.S. liquefied natural gas by European countries is part of a larger effort by Trump to ramp up production of oil and natural gas in America that has the U.S. on the verge of surpassing Russia as the world’s largest energy producer, something that would have been highly unlikely to occur under a theoretical Clinton administration.
As for his savage slams against Clinton in front of world leaders, some may take issue with it in terms of presidential decorum, but it is simply further evidence that Trump is not just another polished politician who carefully measures each word prior to speaking it, but an American who speaks his mind and tells the blunt truth as he sees it.
That is a trait that many of supporters truly love and one that drives his detractors mad. And besides, if Clinton hadn’t done so many “crooked” things over the years, Trump wouldn’t need to call her “Crooked Hillary.”
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