The Latest: Trump says Putin meeting may be 'easiest'

Published 07-10-2018

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WASHINGTON (AP) – The Latest on Trump's NATO trip (all times local):

8:10 a.m.

'President Donald Trump says NATO benefits Europe more than the United States, as he prepares to meet with treaty allies in Brussels.

Speaking to reporters Tuesday from the White House before departing Washington for Europe, Trump says of the 69-year old trans-Atlantic mutual defense pact, "Frankly it helps them a lot more than it helps us."

Responding to criticism from Donald Tusk, the President of the European Council, who complained that Trump is "criticizing Europe almost daily," Trump says the United States is "being taken advantage of" by the European Union.

Trump says he is referring to the trade imbalance with Europe and the American contribution to NATO.

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7:45 a.m.

President Donald Trump says he "can't say right now" if Russian President Vladimir Putin is a friend or foe.

Trump spoke to reporters Tuesday before departing the White House for a trip that will take him to a NATO summit meeting, bilateral meetings in the United Kingdom and a sit-down with Putin in Helsinki next week.

He says, "I think Putin may be the easiest of them all." He called Putin a "competitor."

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7:45 a.m.

President Donald Trump says he "can't say right now" if Russian President Vladimir Putin is a friend or foe.

Trump spoke to reporters Tuesday before departing the White House for a trip that will take him to a NATO summit meeting, bilateral meetings in the United Kingdom and a sit-down with Putin in Helsinki next week.

He says, "I think Putin may be the easiest of them all." He called Putin a "competitor."

Trump predicts tough negotiations with NATO over defense spending.

He adds: "I think that getting along with Russia, getting along with China, getting along with others is a good thing, not a bad thing."

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6:55 a.m.

President Donald Trump is tweeting that NATO countries "must pay MORE, the United States must pay LESS" as he prepare

President Donald Trump says he "can't say right now" if Russian President Vladimir Putin is a friend or foe.

Trump spoke to reporters Tuesday before departing the White House for a trip that will take him to a NATO summit meeting, bilateral meetings in the United Kingdom and a sit-down with Putin in Helsinki next week.

He says, "I think Putin may be the easiest of them all." He called Putin a "competitor."

Trump predicts tough negotiations with NATO over defense spending.

He adds: "I think that getting along with Russia, getting along with China, getting along with others is a good thing, not a bad thing."

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6:55 a.m.

President Donald Trump is tweeting that NATO countries "must pay MORE, the United States must pay LESS" as he prepares to depart for his four-nation European tour.

Trump is headed to Brussels, Britain and Scotland, then to Finland, where he's expected to sit down with Russia President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki. Trump has long been at odds with U.S. allies over NATO spending, pressing member countries to fulfill their goal of spending 2 percent of their gross domestic products on defense by 2024.

Trump's tweets would likely set a combative tone for the upcoming meetings.

He wrote: "The U.S. is spending many times more than any other country in order to protect them. Not fair to the U.S. taxpayer."

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12:35 a.m.

President Donald Trump's four-nation European tour has allies fretting over the risk of damage he could do to the decades-old NATO alliance. They're also worried about his potential embrace of Russia's Vladimir Putin during a summit in Helsinki.

The trip that begins Tuesday in Brussels will also take Trump to London, where Prime Minister Theresa May's government is in turmoil over her plans for exiting the European Union.

Trump has been pressing NATO countries to fulfill their goal of spending 2 percent of their gross domestic products on defense by 2024. NATO estimates that 15 members, or just over half, will meet the benchmark by 2024 based on current trends.

Trump's weeklong trip will continue with a stop in Scotland and end with a sit-down in Helsinki with Putin.

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