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As a defense against impeachment, Trump clings to NATO

Trump saw NATO as an "obsolete" alliance that the United States should consider abandoning. Then the impeachment inquiry intensified - and he changed his mind.

Donald Trump's hostility toward NATO has been an unsettling staple of his presidency. While American support for the alliance has been bipartisan for much of the last century, the Republican has broken new ground, publicly questioning the value of NATO, condemning NATO as “obsolete,” and by some accounts, threatening to withdraw from the alliance altogether.

But now that Trump is facing the prospect of impeachment, he and his team have decided they actually love NATO -- so much that they expect Congress to delay the impeachment process out of deference for this week's NATO summit in the U.K. As TPM reported:

White House counsel Pat Cipollone noted in his letter informing House Judiciary Committee Chair Jerry Nadler (R-NY) that Trump wouldn't attend the hearing this week that Democrats appeared to have purposely scheduled while Trump is out of town for the NATO summit in London. While the hearing is set for Wednesday when Trump is still gone, the invitation was extended just as earnestly to Trump's lawyers as it was to the President himself.But Trump parroted that talking points while speaking to reporters before his departure Monday, calling the NATO summit -- an agreement he routinely derides as irrelevant -- "one of the most important journeys that we make as president."

Trump suggested to reporters that it's outrageous for Congress to advance the process at "the exact time" he will be abroad for a NATO gathering. The president added on Twitter that it's "not nice" for Democrats to "purposely schedule" a hearing during the summit.

Predictably, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo went to Fox News' morning show to echo the new talking points, as if they had merit.

They don't.

For one thing, there is no inherent conflict. The affairs of state continue, even when a president is abroad, and there's nothing stopping White House officials from participating in impeachment proceedings, regardless of a president's physical location.

Congressional Republicans proceeded with the impeachment process in 1998, even as Bill Clinton attended international meetings, so there's already a precedent to follow.

What's more, the idea that House Democrats deliberately scheduled hearings to coincide with NATO discussions is plainly foolish. Dems are moving quickly because of the calendar, not because of Trump's travel plans.

But even putting aside these relevant details, what's truly amazing is Trump's willingness to pretend to be a champion of NATO -- an alliance he's been hostile toward throughout his limited political career, including last week -- purely as a matter of political convenience. As of this morning, the American president seemed to expect others to play along with his newfound love of the alliance.

President Trump on Tuesday slammed as "very very nasty" and "very disrespectful" recent comments by his French counterpart about the diminished state of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization alliance.Referring to comments President Emmanuel Macron made last month in an interview with The Economist -- in which Macron described the "brain death" of NATO due to lack of American support -- Trump attacked Macron during his first remarks on the first day of the NATO 70th anniversary summit in London, calling the comments "very insulting.""You just can't go around making statements like that about NATO," Trump said, sitting next to NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg at a one-on-one meeting between the two leaders Tuesday morning.

Trump has been going around making statements like these about NATO for years.