BRUSSELS — Vice President Mike Pence told a rattled Europe on Monday that President Donald Trump fully supports crucial European institutions — despite the president's perplexing comments and occasional insults — and said he supported the firing of the national security adviser.
"The president did ask me to come here to Brussels, to the home of the European Union, and deliver an additional message," Pence said while standing next to Donald Tusk, president of the European Council and a former prime minister of Poland. "So today it's my privilege on behalf of President Trump to express the strong commitment of the United States to continued cooperation and partnership with the European Union."
Asked for his response to the resignation of the national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn — whom the administration blamed for misleading Pence about the extent of his conversations with the Russian ambassador to the United States — Pence said he supported Trump's decision to ask for Flynn's resignation.
Smiles and handshakes abounded before and after Pence delivered his reassuring words, but Europeans — taken aback by Trump's occasional fulminations against European institutions that have long been the bedrock of U.S. policy here — were still wary.
In January, Trump called the EU "basically a vehicle for Germany," language that stunned leaders of the bloc, which has been struggling with economic malaise, migration and Britain's intention to withdraw. Days later, Tusk, who represents the union's 28 national leaders, described Trump's bombastic and skeptical language as a potential threat to European unity alongside Russian aggression, Chinese assertiveness and Islamist terrorism.
On Monday, after meeting with Pence, Tusk said he felt reassured. In a detailed statement, he said he had asked Pence whether the Trump administration was committed to maintaining an international order based on rules and laws; whether Trump was committed to NATO and to "the closest possible trans-Atlantic cooperation"; and whether Europe could count "as always in the past, on the United States' wholehearted and unequivocal, let me repeat, unequivocal support for the idea of a united Europe."
Among the concerns shared by many European policymakers is the possibility that the Trump administration will impose protectionist tariffs as part of the president's goal of bringing jobs back to the United States.