WH Defends Biden After VP Told Foreign Leaders Not to Take Trump Seriously

By Susan Jones | August 24, 2016 | 5:33am EDT
From left: Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, Latvian President Raimonds Vejonis and Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves pose for a photo during a press conference after their meeting in Riga, Latvia, Tuesday, Aug. 23, 2016. (Latvian Presidential Press Service Photo via AP)

(CNSNews.com) - The White House on Tuesday defended Vice President Joe Biden, who belittled Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump in front of foreign leaders in Latvia.

Biden told leaders of the three Baltic States that the U.S. is committed to the collective defense of its NATO allies (Article 5), and he also told those foreign leaders that Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump doesn't know what he's talking about.

"We have pledged our sacred honor -- the United States of America -- our sacred honor to the NATO treaty and Article 5," Biden said at a photo op. "We mean what we say. We have have never reneged on any committment we've ever made. Our sacred honor is at stake.

"And the fact that you occasionally hear something from a presidential candidate in the other party -- uh, it's nothing that should be taken seriously, because I don't even think he understands what Article 5 is."

In July, The New York Times asked Trump if the new NATO members Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania could "count on the United States to come to their military aid if they were attacked by Russia?"

"Have they fulfilled their obligations to us?" Trump asked. "If they fulfill their obligations to us, the answer is yes," he said. Trump noted that many NATO members are not paying their bills.

"You can't forget the bills," Trump said. "They have an obligation to make payments. Many NATO nations are not making payments, are not making what they’re supposed to make. That’s a big thing. You can’t say forget that."

A reporter on Tuesday asked White House spokesman Josh Earnest if it's "appropriate for the vice president to be injecting presidential campaigning into an official meeting overseas?"

Earnest noted that President Obama also reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to Article 5  when he traveled to Estonia a few years ago.

"And President Obama has made clear that it is dangerous to raise any doubts about the U.S. commitment to our NATO allies," Earnest said. "The U.S. commitment to Article 5 of the NATO treaty is ironclad. And there should be no confusion about that.

"And I didn't see the entirety of the Vice President's remarks, but I'm confident that his remarks were an effort to clear up any confusion that may exist on this front. And some of that confusion may stem from some of the rhetoric that we've seen on the campaign trail.

"That's unfortunate, because the President has been crystal-clear about our country's ironclad commitment to our NATO allies. That is a commitment that transcends presidencies; it transcends political party. And the Vice President's trip there was another indication of that ironclad commitment on the part of the United States."

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