Lawmakers rebuke Trump for attacks on Germany, NATO allies at summit

Rep. Paul Ryan said he wouldn't criticize the president while he's abroad, but the speaker made his feelings clear — NATO, he said, is indispensable.
by Dartunorro Clark /  / Updated 

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Republican and Democratic lawmakers criticized President Donald Trump on Wednesday after he blasted European allies and called Germany "a captive of Russia" at the NATO summit in Brussels.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said the president's remarks were "an embarrassment."

"President Trump's brazen insults and denigration of one of America's most steadfast allies, Germany, is an embarrassment," Pelosi and Schumer said in a joint statement. "His behavior this morning is another profoundly disturbing signal that the president is more loyal to President Putin than to our NATO allies."

Trump, who is in Brussels as part of weeklong European trip, has repeatedly said that NATO member nations have taken advantage of the U.S. by not contributing adequate sums to their defense.

House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said Wednesday that the 29-member international alliance was "indispensable" and the House passed a non-binding resolution expressing support for NATO by unanimous voice vote in the afternoon. The Senate had approved a similar resolution Tuesday.

"I subscribe to the view that we should not be criticizing our president while he is overseas," Ryan said, "but let me say a couple of things — NATO is indispensable, it's as important today as it ever has been."

Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said Trump's comments were not in America's national interest and could weaken the alliance. He also raised concerns about the signal it could send before Trump meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin next week in Helsinki.

"I’m very concerned that we have a rough meeting with NATO and then some kind of conciliatory meeting with Putin and it works against our country's national interest," he said.

Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said he disagreed with the president's assertion and urged him to stop being so critical of foreign allies.

"I don't agree with that, the Germans wouldn't agree with that, they are very strong people,” he said. "I think sometimes he can be a little too critical of our counterparts."

Former Secretary of State John Kerry, who served under President Barack Obama, also condemned the remarks.

"It was disgraceful, destructive, and flies in the face of the actual interests of the United States of America," Kerry said in a statement. "There's a time, place, and manner for raising issues with allies, and trashing them on camera in a way that calls into question the alliance itself isn't it."

Sen. John Kennedy, R-La., defended Trump for being critical of NATO, saying that American taxpayers have been carrying France and Germany "on their backs" for years.

Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., also stood by Trump's comments.

"I think it’s about time that somebody in the U.S. stood up to NATO," he said. "Also, the Europeans can be sort of arrogant at times, so it's good to knock them back."

Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, insisted that the president's comments hurt NATO's mission and helps adversaries like Russia.

"It's so upsetting to see that Putin, whose No. 1 goal is to divide the West, and particularly in NATO, has an American president doing his work for him," Menendez said. "Putin made a great investment in the 2016 presidential elections, and it's paying off for him in Brussels today."

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