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Trump Calls Trudeau 'Two-Faced' Over Video Comments


All right. President Trump and Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau got into something of a dust-up at the NATO meeting in London. It started with a hot mic incident and quickly devolved into name-calling, as NPR White House correspondent Tamara Keith reports.

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: Let's start at the beginning. On Tuesday, President Trump and Trudeau sat down for a meeting with a small pool of reporters let in for what's normally a pretty quick exchange of pleasantries.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: It's an honor to be with a friend of mine who just had a great election victory. Congratulations.


KEITH: But Trump was in a talkative mood, so he opened it up to questions. The back-and-forth lasted a full 30 minutes. Then, later that night at a reception, Trudeau was holding court with the French president and the British prime minister, apparently complaining about how long Trump talked to reporters.


TRUDEAU: He was late because he takes a 40-minute press conference off the top.

KEITH: And the video goes viral. It's what's called a hot mic - powerful people caught on tape when they think no one can hear them.

HEATHER CONLEY: Hot mics are just a hot mess.

KEITH: Heather Conley is director of the Europe Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

CONLEY: Yes, it was certainly at the expense that the president had two very long press conferences that day, but I think you have to take it as leaders interacting at a reception, having some fun.

KEITH: When I ask former Trudeau foreign policy adviser Roland Paris about it, he doesn't even really want to go there.

ROLAND PARIS: Do I have to talk about it?

KEITH: The professor of international affairs at the University of Ottawa says that what Trudeau and the other leaders were discussing in the viral video was an astonishment with Trump's approach to diplomacy that many have expressed publicly before.

PARIS: The actual contents of what was said was much milder than the criticism that Trump is dealing with on a day-to-day basis.

KEITH: Inevitably, President Trump was asked about Trudeau's remarks, and Trump shot back.


TRUMP: Well, he's two-faced.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Do you think that Germany's too naive...

TRUMP: And honestly, with Trudeau, he's a nice guy. I find him to be a very nice guy. But, you know, the truth is I called him out on the fact that he's not paying 2%, and I guess he's not really happy about it.

KEITH: The 2% relates to an increase Trump wants in defense spending. The two-faced comment is similar to a criticism President Trump lobbed at Trudeau after a meeting last summer in Canada. After he left the G-7, Trump caught wind of something Trudeau had said and tweeted from Air Force One that Trudeau had been so meek and mild during their G-7 meetings, only to turn around and complain about Trump in a press conference. Very dishonest and weak, Trump added.

Paris says it was a real low point.

PARIS: Trump called Trudeau weak and dishonest. He was threatening to trash Canada's auto industry. He had imposed steel and aluminum sanctions on Canada. All of those conditions have been dealt with largely, so I thought it was actually a terrific, terrific meeting between the two leaders.

KEITH: And then came the viral video. But neither Conley nor Paris thinks there will be lasting damage to the relationship. For one thing, both leaders badly want a joint trade agreement with Mexico to be ratified. Trudeau, for his part, was contrite when asked about the kerfuffle. He tried to keep the focus on what had generally been viewed as a successful NATO meeting with Trump.


TRUDEAU: Endeavor to keep the focus on the substantive issues that were discussed and the positive news. That we move forward is something that we're all going to try to do a little harder.

KEITH: And at around the same time, President Trump was at a luncheon when he, too, was caught on a hot mic.


TRUMP: That was funny when I said the guy's two-faced. You know, they're gone.

KEITH: The microphones weren't quite gone yet, so the whole world could hear how satisfied Trump was with his sweet burn on the Canadian prime minister.

Tamara Keith, NPR News, London.


Tamara Keith has been a White House correspondent for NPR since 2014 and co-hosts the NPR Politics Podcast, the top political news podcast in America. Keith has chronicled the Trump administration from day one, putting this unorthodox presidency in context for NPR listeners, from early morning tweets to executive orders and investigations. She covered the final two years of the Obama presidency, and during the 2016 presidential campaign she was assigned to cover Hillary Clinton. In 2018, Keith was elected to serve on the board of the White House Correspondents' Association.
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