Pres­i­dent says he had a “GREAT” meet­ing with Merkel on Fri­day

The Denver Post - - FRONT PAGE - By Ken Thomas and Jill Colvin

tweet: Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump said Satur­day that Ger­many owes “vast sums of money” to NATO, and the U.S. “must be paid more” for pro­vid­ing de­fense.

wash­ing­ton» Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump said Satur­day that Ger­many owes “vast sums of money” to NATO and the U.S. “must be paid more” for pro­vid­ing de­fense, reit­er­at­ing his stance that Euro­pean al­lies need to meet their end of the bar­gain if they are to con­tinue ben­e­fit­ing from the mil­i­tary al­liance.

Trump’s tweet from his Florida re­sort, where he is spend­ing the week­end, came the day after his first meet­ing with Ger­many’s leader.

“De­spite what you have heard from the FAKE NEWS, I had a GREAT meet­ing with Ger­man Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel,” the pres­i­dent wrote. “Nev­er­the­less, Ger­many owes ... vast sums of money to NATO & the United States must be paid more for the pow­er­ful, and very ex­pen­sive, de­fense it pro­vides to Ger­many!”

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.

Dur­ing a photo op in the Oval Of­fice, the two did not shake hands be­fore re­porters. Later, dur­ing a joint news con­fer­ence, Trump pushed back against the no­tion in Europe that his “Amer­ica First” agenda means he’s an iso­la­tion­ist, call­ing such a sug­ges­tion “an­other ex­am­ple of, as you say, fake news.” And he re­ferred to the United States as “a very pow­er­ful com­pany,” be­fore quickly cor­rect­ing that to “coun­try.”

When a Ger­man re­porter asked Trump if he re­grets any of his com­men­tary on Twit­ter, Trump said, “Very sel­dom.”

The new pres­i­dent reaf­firmed the United States’ “strong sup­port” for NATO, but re­it­er­ated his stance that NATO al­lies need to “pay their fair share” for the cost of de­fense. Trump said at the press con­fer­ence that many coun­tries owe “vast sums of money” — but he de­clined to iden­tify Ger­many, at the time, as one of those na­tions.

Prior to his in­au­gu­ra­tion, Trump de­clared NATO “ob­so­lete” but has since mod­i­fied his stance, telling Euro­pean lead­ers the al­liance re­mains of strate­gic im­por­tance. Only the U.S. and four other mem­bers cur­rently reach the bench­mark of spend­ing 2 per­cent of GDP on de­fense. Ger­many cur­rently spends 1.23 per­cent of its GDP on de­fense, but it is be­ing in­creased.

When the topic moved to trade, Trump said the U.S. would do “fan­tas­ti­cally well” in its trade re­la­tions with Ger­many.

The pres­i­dent has been deeply crit­i­cal of for­eign trade and na­tional se­cu­rity agree­ments but sug­gested he was only try­ing to re­vise trade deals to bet­ter serve U.S. in­ter­ests, rather than pull back from the world en­tirely.

Trump said trade agree­ments have led to greater trade deficits. The U.S. trade deficit with Ger­many was $64.9 bil­lion last year, the low­est since 2009, ac­cord­ing to the Com­merce De­part­ment.

Merkel main­tained her com­po­sure when Trump re­peated his con­tention that former Pres­i­dent Barack Obama may have tapped his phones in Trump Tower. He sought to turn the ex­plo­sive charge into a light joke when asked about con­cerns raised by the Bri­tish gov­ern­ment that the White House is now cit­ing a de­bunked claim that U.K. spies snooped on Trump.

“At least we have some­thing in com­mon, per­haps,” Trump said ca­su­ally, re­fer­ring to 2013 re­ports that the U.S. was mon­i­tor­ing Merkel’s cell­phone con­ver­sa­tions.

As for the most re­cent re­port, Trump said he shouldn’t be blamed for quot­ing a Fox News an­a­lyst who had ac­cused Bri­tish in­tel­li­gence of help­ing Obama spy on him.

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