LONDON — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and other foreign leaders have been caught on camera apparently talking candidly about U.S. President Donald Trump, with the footage now going viral and stoking fears of a backlash.
The video was shot during a reception at Buckingham Palace held Tuesday night in London, where leaders from NATO’s 29 countries are marking the 70th anniversary of the military alliance with two days of meetings and discussions.
In it, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson can be heard asking French President Emmanuel Macron why he was late, to which Trudeau says: “He was late because he takes a 40-minute press conference off the top.”
The leaders do not use Trump’s name, but the U.S. president took dozens of questions from journalists on Tuesday during impromptu news conferences at the start of his individual meetings with Macron, Trudeau and NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg.
Trump’s impromptu news conference with Trudeau lasted more than half an hour, which included questions about China, the impeachment process and also saw the Canadian prime minister deflecting questions from the U.S. president about Canada’s defence spending.
The reception footage also shows Trudeau talking about “his team’s jaws drop to the floor,” though the subject isn’t clear.
The Prime Minister’s Office did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Trudeau is scheduled to hold a news conference at the end of the NATO summit on Wednesday.
The footage, shot by the British host’s pool camera, has since spread across the internet and been broadcast by international media such as Fox News and the New York Times, with observers suggesting Trudeau and the other leaders were mocking Trump.
That has prompted questions and concerns about how the mercurial U.S. president will react.
“By this point in his tenure, the prime minister should realize that events with pool cameras need to be approached and managed as on-the-record events,” Andrew MacDougall, former director of communications for prime minister Stephen Harper, wrote on Twitter.
“Hopefully this gaffe doesn’t wind the president up at a sensitive time for NAFTA and the Meng (Wanzhou)/Huawei file.”
Trump had not replied before the start of Wednesday’s closed-door meeting of NATO leaders, tweeting only about having enjoyed his meeting with Johnson during the previous night’s reception.
Trudeau was seen approaching the U.S. president prior to the meeting, where the two shook hands and exchanged a few words before going their separate ways.
While Trudeau has spent much of the past three years trying to establish a good relationship with Trump, the U.S. president has not shied away from lashing out any perceived slight from fellow world leaders.
Earlier Tuesday, Trump slammed Macron for having suggested the NATO alliance was suffering from “brain death” because of a lack of communication and co-ordination, particularly with regards to U.S. and Turkish actions in northeastern Syria.
Trump described Macron’s comments as “very nasty” before criticizing France’s economy and warning the European country needed NATO far more than the U.S. Other NATO leaders have been trying to bridge the divide and keep the alliance strong and united.
The U.S. president also previously attacked Trudeau following the G7 summit in Quebec City in June 2018, describing the latter as “so meek and mild” amid a trade row over Canadian dairy and American tariffs on Canadian steel and aluminum.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published on Dec. 4, 2019.