It may seem like a long time ago now, but President Trump began his European trip last week on the right foot. Republicans and at least one Democrat praised the president for his tough tone with the other member nations for their lackluster defense spending.
"Many countries owe us," he said in Brussels.
During one of their early meetings, Trump also confronted NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg, accusing some members of being at a disadvantage over negotiations because they are being held captive by Russia.
“How can you be together when you’re getting energy from the group you want protection from?” Trump asked Stoltenberg, who was sitting right across from him.
"Germany is totally controlled by Russia," Trump said, offering an example. Germany, he noted, gets 60 to 70 percent of their energy from Russia.
Democratic Sen. Chris Coons (DE) liked what he heard.
"First, let me commend President Trump for having gotten $14 billion of more investment in their national defense in our collective security by NATO members by pressing them harder than before," Coons said. "This is a trend that began under President Obama and President Bush, but it has accelerated and that's a positive."
Yet, Coons limited his praise by expressing regret over Trump's temper.
"But let me also say I'm worried about the ways in which President Trump undermines our NATO collective security by attacking our allies and through his tariff policies."
Just a few days later, Trump had a controversial press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin, where he failed to hold Russia accountable for U.S. election interference. That's why Sen. Coons has since drastically changed his tone.
First, @POTUS’ refusal to strongly & publicly hold Putin & Russia accountable for attacking our 2016 election, propping up the murderous Assad regime, & illegally invading Crimea was a historic failure of leadership that will have lasting consequences for natl & global security— Senator Chris Coons (@ChrisCoons) July 16, 2018
Second, President Trump was given a choice between backing the U.S. law enforcement & intelligence communities or siding with Vladimir Putin. He picked Putin.— Senator Chris Coons (@ChrisCoons) July 16, 2018
That choice, Coons said, was "alarming and unacceptable."
Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA) also regretted how Trump's trip ended. He started out like a "man on fire," Kennedy said. But, by the time he got to the stage with Putin, the U.S. president seemed "uncertain."