Coming off a contentious NATO summit and a trip to the U.K. in which he seemed to undercut the government of America's closest ally, President Trump took aim at another Western institution just days before his high-stakes meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
In an interview with "CBS Evening News" anchor Jeff Glor in Scotland on Saturday, President Trump named the European Union -- comprising some of America's oldest allies -- when asked to identify his "biggest foe globally right now."
"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. Russia 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," Mr. Trump said at his golf club in Turnberry, Scotland.
"I respect the leaders of those countries. 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," he added.
On Sunday, British Prime Minister Theresa May told the BBC that Mr. Trump had encouraged her to "sue the EU" rather than negotiate over the U.K.'s departure from the bloc. May's conservative government is deeply split over her handling of Brexit, and her hold on power was further weakened by Mr. Trump's comments to a British tabloid that her approach had likely "killed" any chance of a new trade deal with the U.S. once Brexit is complete. (Mr. Trump tried to walk back his criticism in a joint press conference on Friday.)
At the summit of NATO allies in Brussels last week, Mr. Trump took a hard line toward member nations for failing to meet targeted defense spending goals. He claimed his tough stance had paid off in getting allies to spend more on defense, telling reporters on Thursday that members had "upped their commitments and I am very happy."
The president kicked off the NATO summit by blasting Germany as "totally controlled" and "captive by Russia" over a natural gas pipeline project, known as the Nord Stream 2. The U.S. fears the deal could give Moscow greater leverage over Western Europe. In Saturday's interview, the president reiterated the criticisms he made in Brussels.
"Germany made a pipeline deal with Russia. Where they're going to be paying Russia billions and billions of dollars a year for energy, and I say that's not good, that's not fair. You're supposed to be fighting for someone 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 told Glor. "I'll tell you what, there's a lot of anger at the fact that Germany is paying Russia billions of dollars. There's a lot of anger. I also think it's a very bad thing for Germany. Because it's like, what, are they waving a white flag?"
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who grew up in communist East Germany, told reporters after the president's comments in Brussels that she had "experienced myself how a part of Germany was controlled by the Soviet Union" and said her country today made "independent policies" and "independent decisions.
In the CBS News interview, Mr. Trump also continued to criticize the special counsel's Russia investigation, saying it is having an impact on America's standing in the world. "I think we're greatly hampered by this whole witch hunt that's going on in the United States," the president said. "I think it hurts our relationship with Russia. I actually think it hurts our relationship with a lot of countries. I think it's a disgrace what's going on."
Mr. Trump heads to Helsinki on Sunday ahead of his meeting with Putin on Monday. He told Glor he has "low expectations" for the summit. "Nothing bad is going to come out of it, and maybe some good will come out," he said.
The following is a transcript of the portion of the interview that aired on "Face the Nation." More of the interview will air Monday on "CBS This Morning," between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m., and on "CBS Evening News with Jeff Glor" Monday from 6:30 p.m. to 7 p.m.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Good morning and welcome to "Face the Nation." President Trump is still in Europe, he's heading next to Helsinki, Finland, for tomorrow's meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Yesterday, he spent some time with "CBS Evening News" Anchor Jeff Glor at the President's golf resort in Turnberry, Scotland.
JEFF GLOR: I saw the conversation you had with Jens Stoltenberg which is a very direct conversation, as- as you approach the meetings with Vladimir Putin coming up. Do you expect a similar tone?
PRESIDENT TRUMP: I don't expect anything. I frankly don't expect -- I go in with very low expectations. I think that getting along with Russia is a good thing. But it's possible we won't. I think we're greatly hampered by this whole witch hunt that's going on in the United States. The Russian witch hunt. The -- the rigged situation. I watch some of the testimony, even though I'm in Europe, of Strzok. And I thought it was a disgrace to our country. I thought it was an absolute disgrace. Where he wants to do things against me before I was even, I guess before I was even the candidate. It was a disgrace. And then he lied about it. And you know, talking about shutting it down and 'we, we.' And he says 'oh I meant the American people' all of a sudden you know, he came up with excuses. I guess given to a lawyer, but everybody laughed at it. He was a disgrace to our country. He was a disgrace to the FBI. So when I look at things like that and he led that investigation or whatever you call it. I would say that yeah,
I think it hurts our relationship with Russia. I actually think it hurts our relationship with a lot of countries. I think it's a disgrace what's going on. And then you look how, you know, partisan it is. You look at what's going on where -- and they know, they know that there's no way he can get away from those horrible texts that he wrote. So the other side does. But it's a very partisan thing.
JEFF GLOR: The Russians who were indicted, would you ask Putin to- to send them here?
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Well I might. I hadn't thought of that. But I certainly, I'll be asking about it. But again, this was during the Obama administration. They were doing whatever it was during the Obama administration. 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 defenses. I've been told that by a number of people. We had much better defenses, so they couldn't. I think the DNC should be ashamed of themselves for allowing themselves to be hacked. They had bad defenses and they were able to be hacked. But I heard they were trying to hack the Republicans too. But, and this may be wrong, but they had much stronger defenses.
JEFF GLOR: Who is your biggest competitor? Your biggest foe globally right now?
PRESIDENT TRUMP: 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. Russia 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. They want to do well and we want to do well. And we're starting to do well. You see what's going on we have best unemployment numbers probably that we've ever had. Black unemployment is the lowest level in history. Hispanic unemployment the lowest level in history, Jeff. Women unemployment lowest in 66 years. Our numbers are great. Our GDP numbers are far greater than what they thought.
JEFF GLOR: A lot of people might be surprised to hear you list the EU as a foe before China and Russia?
PRESIDENT TRUMP: No I look at them all look, EU is very difficult. I-I want to tell you. Maybe the thing that is most difficult -- don't forget both my parents were born in EU sectors okay? I mean my mother was Scotland, my father was Germany. And -- you know I love those countries. I respect the leaders of those countries. 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. Because Germany made a pipeline deal with Russia. Where they're going to be paying Russia billions and billions of dollars a year for energy and I say that's not good, that's not fair. You're supposed to be fighting for someone 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. I'll tell you what, there's a lot of anger at the fact that Germany is paying Russia billions of dollars. There's a lot of anger. I also think it's a very bad thing for Germany. Because it's like -- what are they waving a white flag?
MARGARET BRENNAN: More of Jeff's interview with President Trump in Scotland will air tomorrow on "CBS This Morning" and later on the "CBS Evening News," as well as our digital network, CBSN.