US president Donald Trump is unlikely to be accused of being loyal to his associates, or being loyal to the truth any time soon. But a recent denial the US leader made to journalists has the internet buzzing.
When asked about Prince Andrew, the Duke of York, who was recently forced to step down from royal duties due to accusations about sex with underage girls trafficked by former billionaire Jeffrey Epstein, the president denied ever knowing him.
“No, I don’t know Prince Andrew, but it’s a tough story, it’s a very tough story, I don’t know him, no,” he told reporters.
However fact checking that statement is as simple as a quick Google search. Photos were quickly shared on social media with one in particular being seized upon by online sleuths.
It is one of many showing Trump and Prince Andrew together, and lurking in the background is Epstein, known associate of the two men.
British politics editor for the Huffington Post and BBC presenter Paul Waugh shared the photo on Twitter Tuesday night, writing “this picture in particular could prove very tricky”.
The death of Epstein, who allegedly killed himself inside a New York prison cell in August, has been at the centre of major conspiracy theories online and Trump’s denial, and the resurfacing of such images, is only stoking them.
“Epstein behind them couldn’t get any creepier,” one Twitter user replied to Mr Waugh.
“I don’t understand why he lies even when they are easily disproven,” another said. “Is he simply a pathological liar? Is he hiding something?”
Trump’s denial came during a trip to the UK where Western leaders met with the Queen – Prince Andrew’s mother – ahead of a meeting about the NATO military alliance marking the 70th anniversary of the pact.
But that alliance, spearheaded by the US after World War II, which helped underpin the geopolitical order, looks more fragile than ever as Trump’s trip to the UK kicked off.
As NATO alliance frays Trump accuses Macron of being ‘very very nasty’
In a terse sit down Trump and French leader Emmanuel Macron clashed in front of reporters ahead of the NATO summit, highlighting the underlining discord of the alliance, dubbed the most successful military pact in history.
The Macron-Trump meeting/press conference highlights how little respect there is for the U.S. right now. Unthinkable that an ally would speak to the President the way Macron did with him sitting right next to him.— Joe Lockhart (@joelockhart) December 3, 2019
I am loving the fact that President Macron has had ENOUGH of trump's bullshit, and is calling him out in front of the world.— BrooklynDad_Defiant! (@mmpadellan) December 3, 2019
I am HERE for it all day, every day.
President Macron stood by comments he made last month describing NATO as suffering from a lack of strategic purpose akin to "brain death", and criticised fellow NATO member Turkey, which he accused of working with Islamic State proxies.
Washington and Paris have long argued over NATO's purpose - France opposed the 2003 Iraq war - but the new tensions will add to doubts over the alliance's future that have grown with Trump's ambivalence over US commitments to defend Europe.
Trump said Macron's criticism of NATO was "very, very nasty" and questioned whether the US military should defend any countries that were "delinquent" on alliance targets for national military spending.
"It's not right to be taken advantage of on NATO and also then to be taken advantage of on trade, and that's what happens. We can't let that happen," Trump said of transatlantic disputes on issues ranging from the aerospace sector to a European digital services tax on US technology giants.
NATO powers look to new strategy on China military expansion
As Australia deals with an increasingly assertive China and debates how to manage its biggest trading partner and major military ally, NATO members are set to agree on a new strategy to contain China.
All 29 member states have a target of spending two per cent of their gross domestic product on defence and Trump has singled out Germany for falling short of the target.
But Macron, speaking later at a news conference with Trump, stood by his criticisms of NATO and said its real problem was a failure to forge a clear purpose since the end of the Cold War.
"We have to be clear on what the fundamentals of NATO will be, which is not the case now," he said.
Under the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation's 1949 founding treaty, an attack on one ally is an attack on all its members, and the alliance has military strategies for collective defence across its territory.
In a bid to placate Trump, Europe, Turkey and Canada will pledge $US400 billion ($A584 billion) in defence spending by 2024, and also agree to reduce the US contribution to fund the alliance itself.
The allies will approve a new strategy to monitor China's growing military activity, and name space as a domain of warfare, alongside air, land, sea and computer networks. They will issue a statement condemning Moscow's Crimea annexation.
NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said China’s expansion and investment around the world poses challenges for the Western alliance.
“There’s no way that NATO will move into the South China Sea but we have to address the fact that China is coming closer to us, investing heavily in infrastructure,” he told US media.
“We see them in Africa, we see them in the Arctic, we see them in cyber space and China now has the second-largest defence budget in the world.
“So of course, this has some consequences for NATO.”
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