Both the United States and Germany are denying a claim that President Trump produced a $300 billion invoice for German Chancellor Angela Merkel when she was at the White House earlier this month. Citing an anonymous source, the UK Times reported Sunday that Trump gave Merkel the bill to cover dues Trump believes Germany owes to NATO.
The story was quickly denied by the Trump White House after being picked up widely (including at PJMedia), although most news reports failed to mention the denial. Today, a spokesman for the German government also denied the story.
“Reports that President Trump had presented the federal chancellor with a kind of bill with a concrete billion sum are not true,” spokesman [for the German government] Steffen Seibert said at a press conference.
According to a report in the Sunday Times, Trump handed Merkel a bill of more than $300 billion for money Germany supposedly owed to NATO. The gesture was “outrageous,” the paper quoted an unnamed German minister as saying.
After his meeting with Merkel in mid-March, Trump said on Twitter that Germany owed “vast sums of money” to NATO and the U.S. and it “must be paid more for the powerful, and very expensive, defense it provides to Germany!”
The Times‘ source, supposedly a German minister, called the move “outrageous” and said it was designed to “intimidate.” He said “the Chancellor took it calmly and will not respond to such provocations.”
Former U.S. diplomat and commentator Richard Grenell has been characterizing the report as “fake news”:
The UK Independent, meanwhile, reported on Monday that Trump has been branded an “international embarrassment” following the incident:
[T]he move has been condemned by many Americans who said the move showed Mr Trump failed to understand how Nato worked.
Former Secretary of Labor under Bill Clinton Robert Reich said: “Trump is an international embarrassment. To our allies around the world: He doesn’t represent most Americans, and we’re doing all we can.”
The Independent neglected to mention in its report that the German government has denied the story (which, of course, could be seen as a purely diplomatic move if the reports are true). But the fact that the story is being used as a means to label Trump an “international embarrassment” suggests that there is an agenda behind it. Perhaps the tactic of feeding “too good to check” storylines to damage the Trump administration’s credibility, fake news for an Obama-friendly “echo chamber,” is being used.
Here is President Trump’s press conference with Chancellor Merkel on March 17: