By Laurie Kotka
This afternoon, Time’s 2015 Person of the Year met the 2016 title-holder as German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, and President Donald Trump held a joint news conference.
Trump began the news conference stating his support for NATO. Without referencing Germany specifically, Trump indicated allies should pay for surety of defense claiming, “many nations owe vast sums of money…and they must pay their fair share.”
Both Merkel and Trump offered a summary of their earlier discussion, which included matters such as trade, skill-based job training, immigration and each nation’s respective role in Afghanistan.
When questioned about Trump’s leadership style, Merkel stressed that diversity is good and that politicians are needed to bridge ideological differences.
Confronted with “America First” policies and the extent to which such a brand of isolationism weakens the European Union, Trump answered that he is not an isolationist but many nations have treated America unfairly, yielding an imbalance in trade. Trump continued, “We are a very strong…very strong country…we will soon be at a level that we perhaps have never been before.” He continued, “I don’t know what newspaper you’re reading but I guess that would be another example of, as you say, fake news.”
Of inquiry directed to Trump concerning his rejected wiretapping claims, his tweets, and the blame assigned to British intelligence, Trump stated he does not regret his tweets and joked the wiretapping served as a commonality between him and Merkel. Trump concluded his response, remarking, “And just to finish your question, we said nothing…all we did was quote a certain very talented legal mind who was the one responsible for saying that on television. I didn’t make an opinion on it. That was a statement by a very talented lawyer on Fox…and so you shouldn’t be talking to me, you should be talking to Fox.”
Today marks the first time the two have met following Trump’s criticism of Merkel for allowing Syrian refugees into Germany, characterizing her decision as a “catastrophic mistake” and a move that ruined Germany. Trump’s insistence that Germany increase defense spending, added to his threats to impose a 35 percent tariff on imported vehicles, previously exacerbated the divide between the two leaders.
The meeting was of particular interest to global leaders as they continue to assess the Trump administration whose first two months in office have been marked by turbulence. German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who dubbed Trump a “hate preacher” remarked of Trump, “I know, we must prepare ourselves for turbulent times, unpredictability and uncertainty. But I am convinced that we will find in Washington attentive listeners, who know that even big countries need partners in this world.”