Pence defends Trump’s media attacks

Brussels: US Vice President Mike Pence defended President Donald Trump’s latest attacks on the media and vowed to continue to “call out the media when they play fast and loose with the facts”.

At a news conference at the NATO headquarters here on Monday, Pence insisted that both he and the President “support a free and independent press”, CNN reported.

It came as Trump last week called the media the “enemy of the American people”.

“But you can anticipate that the President and all of us will continue to call out the media when they play fast and loose with the facts,” CNN quoted Pence as saying.

“And the truth is that we have in Trump someone who has a unique ability to speak directly to the American people. And when the media gets it wrong, I promise you, the President will take his case straight to the American people to set the record straight.”

Speaking alongside NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, the Vice President said the US was “fully committed” to the alliance’s mission, despite Trump’s repeated criticism of NATO.

But he also echoed Trump’s concerns that many NATO member states were not sharing the full financial burden of the alliance and said the Trump “expects real progress” from allies on that front by the end of the year.

NATO requires member states to spend 2 per cent of their GDP on defence spending, a target many of the alliance’s members have not met in recent years.

Pence said he was disappointed that former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn misled him about his conversation with the Russian ambassador to the US.

Even as he worked to assure European leaders that the Trump administration was not looking to scrap longstanding transatlantic ties, Pence was met with outward skepticism from the bloc’s top leaders.

European Council President Donald Tusk was blunt. Even while expressing an optimistic outlook, he acknowledged the bilateral ties had entered new, uncertain territory.

“Too much has happened over the past months in your country and the EU. Too many new and sometimes surprising opinions have been voiced over this time about our relations and our common security, for us to pretend that everything is as it used to be.”