The Truth Report: Chancellor Merkel Meeting with President Trump at the White House
Welcome to The Truth Report, I’m Barry Nussbaum.
German Chancellor Andrea Merkel visited President Donald Trump at the White House last week.
While you never can know everything that was discussed in the oval office private meeting, we can piece together a pretty good picture of what was discussed by reviewing the business roundtable video, plus the address from each leader in front of the press, and their answers to the press.
Here are the main points:
- President Trump on Friday once again suggested former President Barack Obama wiretapped him during the 2016 election. The President briefly touched on the wiretapping comment controversy when asked by a reporter about his allegations from earlier this month. “At least we have something in common, perhaps,” Trump quipped. Merkel cracked a smile as reporters in the room laughed. Trump’s comment was a reference to 2013 reports that the U.S. national security agency had listened in on Merkel’s phone calls. An inquiry was launched into the allegations after former NSA worker Edward Snowden revealed details of the secret U.S. eavesdropping programs. Merkel declared at the time that “spying among friends” was unacceptable. The incident blemished an otherwise strong diplomatic relationship between Obama and Merkel.
- Russia and Putin, what is the issue here? Merkel is a Putin expert! She grew up in east Germany when it was still part of the old Soviet block. She speaks fluent Russian. Merkel speaks to Putin virtually every week by telephone. She has told confidants that she sees it as an essential duty. However, she is not someone who admires Putin the same way Trump has expressed so she will be a good person to temper his enthusiasm for Russia and Putin. Merkel is the E.U. leader who knows Putin the most intimately. We will need to watch President Trump to see if we can detect any change in his statements regarding the Russian leader.
- Is Germany aligned with the U.S. on NATO? Not so much up until now. Merkel should be pleased that some of Trump’s envoys have expressed a commitment to NATO way more supportive than his sentiments during the campaign. Still, he continues to demand that NATO member nations increase to 2% of GDP their defense expenditures. Only four nations, Greece, Estonia, Britain and Poland, are spending that much. Germany is number 14, way down the list with just 1.2% of its GDP. Still, that amounts to $39 billion. “Many nations owe vast sums of money from past years, and it is very unfair to the United States,” Trump said. “These nations must pay what they owe.”
He then thanked Merkel, who was standing beside him, for Germany’s apparent commitment to increase defense spending and work toward contributing 2 percent of GDP to NATO. Once Germany gets up to that promised level, they will still be well under the U.S. contribution of 3.6%. Germany is on the front line, the United States is thousands of miles away from the possible enemy, Russia and others in the Middle East. On that point, it would seem that Trump’s negotiating in the press about NATO has paid off in terms of raising the German contribution!
- Vocational training was a topic of discussion. Trump talked about it in his statement to the press. This demonstrates further evidence of the first daughter’s influence in the White House. A White House official said Merkel’s staff reached out to Ivanka Trump about setting up the business meeting which took place earlier in the day. During the session, Trump and Merkel talked with American and German executives and discussed how companies can better train workers. In his opening remarks, Trump said that “training our workforce for the 21st century” was a top priority, adding that “we want to make sure we have the workforce development programs we need to ensure these jobs are being filled by American workers.” Ivanka Trump, who recruited the American executives in attendance, guided the discussion. She praised her father’s “commitment to creating millions of jobs” and stressed the need for private investment, noting that “ingenuity, creativity often comes from the determination of the private sector.” The conversation was focused on vocational training and workforce development, not on the thornier issues of international trade. At the end of the session, Ivanka Trump said the executives would form a taskforce that will provide a report in three months detailing programs that could be expanded and ways the countries can work together. This was the second international workforce meeting coordinated with Ivanka Trump. During Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s visit last month, she helped organize a meeting on economic development opportunities for women. That came together at the suggestion of Trudeau’s office. Participants from the United States included the CEOs of Dow Chemical, IBM and Salesforce. From Germany BMW, Siemens and Schaeffler.
- Trade was a big campaign issue for President Trump. Last year, Germany posted a $65 billion trade surplus with the United States and so far, this year has been running ahead of last year. During the campaign, Trump had threatened to impose a 35% tariff on German carmakers who import their products into the United States. But Merkel could also point to the reality that in 2015, German direct investment in the United States hit $255 billion — a lot of it German automakers’ plants in the United States, employing 670,000 American workers producing cars here for American customers. U.S. investment in Germany was less than half that level. Chancellor Merkel mentioned to the press that Germans are now less in favor of completely open trade…no idea what changes may come on this one!
- Refugees and counterterrorist is probably the biggest source of contention between the two leaders! During his campaign Trump said that Merkel was “ruining” her country by accepting hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees, who Trump claims conceal hordes of terrorists. He quickly pounced on the Christmas truck attack in Berlin by a Tunisian terrorist, proclaiming “I’ve been proven to be right.”
Trump has said many times that immigration is a privilege, not a right.
Merkel hinted at differences, saying: “this is obviously something we had an exchange of views about.” Wish we could have heard what was said. Remember that Chancellor Merkel is running for re-election this fall, and many Germans are very, very, unhappy with soaring crime tied to the open immigration policies put in place by Merkel’s government.
Stay in touch, we will be following up on this story. You can handle the truth, we intend to bring it to you! I’m Barry Nussbaum.