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Trump Hosts German Chancellor Angela Merkel At The White House

Mar 17, 2017
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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Today President Trump had his first face-to-face meeting with someone he's repeatedly criticized during his presidential campaign, German Chancellor Angela Merkel. The two appeared together at a joint press conference where President Trump sidestepped questions about his still-unproven allegations that President Obama had him wiretapped during last year's campaign.

NPR's Tamara Keith joins us now from the White House. And, Tamara, at times, these two leaders have been at odds with each other at least in remarks. So how did it go face-to-face?

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: Well, you know, odds were in favor of this meeting being a little bit awkward at times, and it delivered in that there was a moment where they were both sitting next to each other in chairs for the traditional Oval Office photo op. They didn't really make eye contact. And then at one point, Merkel asked Trump if he wanted to shake hands, but he apparently didn't hear her.

They moved past that to the joint press conference where they were subtle in bringing up some of their differences, Trump talking about NATO, Merkel at one point saying that leading up to this, I've always said it is better to talk to one another than to talk about one another.

CORNISH: You mentioned the NATO alliance. How did they talk about that in the press conference after?

KEITH: Well, so President Trump - he brought up something that he's brought up many times before. Here's just a little clip of it.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I reiterated to Chancellor Merkel my strong support for NATO as well as the need for our NATO allies to pay their fair share for the cost of defense.

KEITH: Trump has frequently complained that unlike the U.S., other NATO member nations fail to meet the spending levels called for in the alliances charter. Germany is one of those countries that comes up short. And in her remarks, Merkel pointed out that she has committed to getting up to the mandated 2 percent of GDP by 2024.

CORNISH: Meanwhile, President Trump for the last couple weeks has maintained that President Obama had him wiretapped during the campaign. He's never given any evidence for this. And this was Trump's first press conference since making that claim. How did it come up? How did he talk about it?

KEITH: Well, it actually took a question from German reporters - two of them brought it up - for Trump to be asked about it. Neither of the American reporters did ask about it. Trump said that he does not regret any of his tweets or rarely regrets tweeting. And then he turned to Merkel and made a joke.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

TRUMP: As far as wiretapping I guess by, you know, this past administration, at least we have something in common perhaps.

(LAUGHTER)

KEITH: So what he was talking about there was the international firestorm that erupted after leaked documents revealed that the U.S. had eavesdropped on Merkel's phone calls. In 2013, those revelations really strained the relationship between the Obama administration and Germany. Trump once again did not produce any evidence that President Obama had ordered him wiretapped during the campaign.

CORNISH: After making that crack, did Angela Merkel respond?

KEITH: (Laughter) She gave him a look that - it's hard to describe, though. It could be read as sort of amazement that he went there. But she did not engage beyond that look.

CORNISH: That's NPR's Tamara Keith. Tamara, thanks so much.

KEITH: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.