Believe it or not, President Trump has been in Europe a little over 72 hours
It may be hard to believe, given the amount of headlines and controversy he’s generated, but President Trump has been overseas for only about 72 hours.
Trump arrived in Brussels around 3 p.m. EDT, or 9 p.m. local time, Tuesday.
Trump’s trip really didn’t get started until about 12 hours later, around 9 a.m. Wednesday when NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg arrived for breakfast.
Here’s what’s happened Wednesday, Thursday, and so far Friday.
Trump lambasted European allies in combative remarks on camera at the breakfast with Stoltenberg. He accused Germany of being “captive to Russia” because of a planned natural gas pipeline linking Russia and Germany. He also called on all NATO members to double their military spending targets.
However, he did not break with the alliance. He later reached an agreement on a plan to improve military readiness and joined in a statement that criticized Russa.
The New York Times reported that his fellow leaders were trying to figure out whether he wanted to gain advantage for the United States or totally change the post-World War II world order or both.
Merkel reacted mildly, but her foreign minister tweeted, “We are no captives — neither of Russia nor of the United States.”
While Trump attacked NATO, Congressional Republicans largely shied away from criticizing him, though Congress overwhelmingly passed, without debate, resolutions supporting NATO on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Trump called an emergency meeting to address his grievances with NATO and then held a news conference where he called himself a “stable genius” again and claimed “total credit” for having pushed NATO members into increasing their military budgets “like they never had before.”
The leaders of Italy and France disputed his claims.
In the closed-door morning meeting, he made a vague threat that if NATO members did not not increase their military spending to a target of 2 percent of GDP by January, the United States would go it alone, the Times reported. (On Wednesday, he had called for them to increase their spending to 4 percent of GDP.)
Later, however, he said, “I believe in NATO. I think NATO’s a very important — probably the greatest ever done.”
Trump got on a plane for London around 2 p.m. local time and after a short flight landed at London Stansted Airport, where the whirlwind of controversy continued.
Hours after landing, in an interview published in the Sun, he publicly undercut British Prime Minister Theresa May’s handling of Brexit, Britain’s plan to cut ties to the European Union. Brexit is the main issue facing May. Trump also raised questions about the potential for a US trade deal with Britain because of the way May was handling Brexit.
The interview, which was conducted Wednesday in Brussels, included a long list of news-making bullet points, including Trump saying that May’s political rival Boris Johnson would make a “great prime minister.”
He also criticized the European Union, saying, “We are cracking down right now on the European Union because they have not treated the United States fairly on trading.”
Trump and May held private talks and a news conference Friday. Trump changed his tune on May at the news conference. He tried to deny he had criticized her and blamed the “fake news” media. Then he heaped compliments on her, the Times reported.
He said she was an “incredible woman . . . doing a fantastic job” and called her “tough” and “capable.”
He also said he would “absolutely, firmly” ask Russian President Vladimir Putin about Russia’s meddling in the US presidential election. But he said he didn’t think there would be “a Perry Mason moment.”
He also changed his view on Brexit and the US trade deal, saying, “whatever you do is OK with me, that’s their decision.”
Thousands protested Trump’s visit both Thursday and Friday. The biggest attendee was a giant balloon that showed Trump as an orange baby in a diaper.
Trump and first lady Melania Trump were headed to tea in the late afternoon, local time, at Windsor Castle, according to pool reports.
Then Friday evening they were heading to Trump Turnberry in Scotland, a Trump golf resort, where he was expected to spend the weekend.
On Monday, Trump is expected to meet with Putin in Helsinki. The drama of the meeting has been heightened by the Justice Department’s announcement Friday that 12 Russian intelligence officers had been indicted for hacking offenses during the 2016 presidential election.
Twenty people and three companies had already been charged in the investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller. That includes four former Trump campaign and White House aides and 13 Russians accused of participating in a hidden but powerful social media campaign to sway the election.
US intelligence officials have said the Russians intervened in the election to try to help Trump win. Mueller was tasked with looking into whether there was coordination between Trump’s campaign and Russia — and any related issues. But Trump has called it a “witch hunt” and said he hopes to have a “very good relationship with Russia.”
Material from Globe wire services was used in this report.