In a forceful interview with CBS’s Face the Nation recorded on Friday for broadcast on Sunday, the president also said Trump’s remarks about Muslims and immigration were “ultimately helping do Isis’s work”.
Trump made his comments about Nato in an interview with the New York Times this week, ahead of his confirmation as the Republican presidential nominee in Cleveland. He criticised the financial contributions of allied states and said he would not necessarily defend some if they were attacked – for example, if Nato states in the Baltic should be attacked by Russia.
“If they fulfill their obligations to us, the answer is yes,” he said.
Obama said Trump’s remarks were “an indication of the lack of preparedness that he has been displaying when it comes to foreign policy”.
“There is a big difference between challenging our European allies to keep up their defense spending,” the president said, “particularly at a time when Russia’s been more aggressive, and saying to them, ‘You know what? We might not abide by the central tenet of the most important alliance in the history of the world.’”
The Republican Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, called Trump’s comments to the Times “a rookie mistake”. Speaking to NBC’s Meet the Press in his own interview recorded for broadcast on Sunday, Trump stuck to his line.
“[McConnell] said that, he’s 100% wrong,” he said. “And frankly, it’s sad. We haveNato, and we have many countries that aren’t paying for what they’re supposed to be paying, which is already too little, but they’re not paying anyway. And we’re giving them a free ride or giving them a ride where they owe us tremendous amounts of money. And they have the money. But they’re not paying it.”
Obama also rejected a suggestion that the mass shooting in Munich on Friday, in which nine people were killed and 27 injured, confirmed the dark and pessimistic worldview presented by Trump in his 75-minute speech to the RNC on Thursday.
“No, it doesn’t,” Obama said. “Terrorism is a real threat. And nobody knows that better than me.”
No link has been found between the Munich gunman, 18-year-old Ali Sonboly, the son of Iranian refugees, and Islamic State or other terror groups. Investigators are instead focusing on Sonboly’s apparent fixation on mass murders in the US and elsewhere, particularly the attack carried out by Anders Breivik in Norway five years to the day before the Munich shooting, after which Sonboly killed himself.
Trump told NBC: “You know, I know they’re saying, ‘Maybe it wasn’t terrorism. Maybe it was just a crazy guy.’ But in the meantime, he’s screaming ‘Allahu Akbar’ as he’s shooting people, so, you know, we’ll see how that turns out.”
It was not known if Sonboly did in fact shout “God is great” in Arabic. One witness told CNN he did; the Munich police chief told Time magazine it was not clear.
On CBS, Obama said: “One of the best ways of preventing [terror attacks] is making sure that we don’t divide our own country, that we don’t succumb to fear, that we don’t sacrifice our values, and that we send a very strong signal to the world and to every American citizen that we’re in this together.”
The president rejected claims from Trump and former House speaker Newt Gingrich about the supposed need to clamp down on immigration from Muslim countries or to monitor Muslims living in the US.
“If we start engaging in the kinds of proposals that we’ve heard from Mr Trump,” Obama said, “or some of his surrogates like Mr Gingrich, where we start suggesting that we would apply religious tests to who could come in here, that we are screening Muslim Americans differently than we would others, then we are betraying that very thing that makes America exceptional.
“The Muslim American … community here, feels deeply American and deeply committed to upholding the rule of law, and working with law enforcement, and rejecting intolerance and extremism that’s represented by the perversions of Islam that [Isis] is sending out through the internet or carrying out in the Middle East.
“But that requires leaders, political leaders, religious leaders, business leaders, all of us to send a very clear signal that we are not going to be divided in that fashion. And I think the kinds of rhetoric that we’ve heard too often, from Mr Trump and others, is ultimately helping do [Isis’s] work.”
In an interview with NBC, Trump not only stood by his proposed ban on Muslim migration to the US but suggested he might expand it to countries that have suffered terrorist attacks.
“I actually don’t think it’s a rollback. In fact, you could say it’s an expansion,” he said. “I’m looking now at territory.”
The business also promised an outright ban on refugee migration from Syria, and said he would provide a list of countries and territories whose people would be subjected to “extreme vetting”, apparently beyond the US’s already strict screening process
Appearing on ABC’s This Week, Trump’s campaign chair, Paul Manafort, rejected the president’s charge.
“He should be the one to be ashamed of what’s going on in the world,” Manafort said. “The growth of Isis occurred as a direct result of the policies that he and Secretary Clinton established when they took office in 2009. The world’s an unsafe place today because of his failed leadership, not because of anything Donald Trump has done.
“The American people are going to be reminded again and again in this election that these baseless charges are against a man who has been an outsider, not someone who has been in the establishment.”
Obama, meanwhile, also said that as president “you have to really care about the American people”. If not, he said, “you will be buffeted and blown back and forth by polls and interest groups and voices whispering in your head.
“And you will lose your center of gravity. You will lose your moral compass.”