29 March, 2017
Germany hit back today at US President Donald Trump's claims that Berlin owed "vast sums of money" to North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, following a less than cordial meeting with Chancellor Angela Merkel at the White House.
For years, Merkel - a trained physicist - had been president Barack Obama's closest worldwide partner, with the two sharing a strong rapport and a similar deliberative approach.
Trump and Merkel tried to sidestep their differences in their meeting at the White House on Friday, but it was punctuated by some awkward moments. At the start of the news conference, Merkel sought to break the ice, saying that it was "much better to talk to one another than about one another".
Trump set the tone for his relations with Merkel during his campaign previous year, saying her decision to allow refugees into Germany was a "catastrophic mistake" and suggesting she was "ruining Germany".
US President Donald Trump and Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel shake hands after a press conference in the East Room of the White House March 17, 2017 in Washington, DC.
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"At least we have something in common, perhaps", Trump said casually, referring to 2013 reports that the USA was monitoring Merkel's cellphone conversations.
Merkel appeared not to find the humor in what had been a major political scandal. His family hails from Kallstadt, a tidy village nestled in southwest Germany's lush wine country. Trump insisted he was not isolationist, saying: "I'm a free trader but also a fair trader". But I also believe a policy of trade should be a fair policy and the United States has been treated very, very unfairly by many countries over the years, and that's going to stop.
It's a well known fact that Trump has never shied away from a handshake when it comes to greeting worldwide leaders and the "death-grip" memes galore are proof to that, however, German Chancellor Merkel had a sticky moment with the U.S. President as besides not shaking her hand, he barely even made eye contact with her during the customary photo-op. Trump backed Britain's departure from the European Union and has expressed skepticism of multilateral trade agreements.
Trump departed Washington later Friday, arriving in Florida where he will spend the weekend at his Mar-a-Lago estate, accompanied by his youngest son Barron, wife Melania and the first lady's parents.