Donald Trump Again Praises Vladimir Putin, Saying Meeting Will Be 'Easiest' While U.K. Is in 'Turmoil' Ahead of NATO Trip

President Donald Trump again heaped praise on Russian President Vladimir Putin Tuesday, suggesting their meeting might be his "easiest" during his European trip while offering limited backing to embattled British Prime Minister Theresa May.

Trump left Washington Tuesday morning for the annual NATO summit. He will later head to the United Kingdom and end the trip with a third sit-down with Putin in Helsinki, on July 16.

"I have NATO. I have the U.K., which is in somewhat turmoil," Trump told reporters before boarding Marine One. "And I have Putin. Frankly, Putin may be the easiest of them all. Who would think? Who would think?"

The president added, "But the U.K. certainly has a—they have a lot of things going on."

Trump's shot at NATO and complimentary tip toward Putin are likely to further rile his critics, who claim the president is doing his Russian counterpart's bidding by stoking divisions within the longtime military alliance as well as the European Union.

Trump also praised Putin and Russia before he met with G-20 leaders last month, stating Russia should be allowed back into the Group of 7.

Trump and Putin are expected to meet one-on-one, with only interpreters present, before aides join the pair for an expanded discussion. The meeting comes as Trump faces accusations of colluding with Russia to win the White House in 2016, which the president has denied, and the ongoing special counsel's probe into Russia's interference in the election.

Before speaking to reporters, Trump reiterated his claim that the U.S. pays far too much into NATO's defense fund while also enduring a hefty trade deficit with European trade partners.

"Getting ready to leave for Europe. First meeting - NATO. The U.S. is spending many times more than any other country in order to protect them. Not fair to the U.S. taxpayer. On top of that we lose $151 Billion on Trade with the European Union. Charge us big Tariffs (& Barriers)!" Trump tweeted.

Trump also added: "NATO countries must pay MORE, the United States must pay LESS. Very Unfair!"

Trump was also asked about U.K. leader May's potentially threatened status as the head of her government following the major departures of Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson on Monday and Brexit Secretary David Davis a day earlier. Each reportedly left as May struggles to implement the referendum to remove the U.K. from the European Union.

"Well, that's up to the people. I get along with her very well. I have a very good relationship. That's certainly up to the people, not up to me," Trump said of May.