Politics

He’s Back: Trump Lashes Out at Germany, 'Fake News' Media

President says trade deficit with Berlin 'will change,' but offers no plan

President Donald Trump arrived back this weekend from a nine-day trip overseas and Tuesday morning began tweeting again. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Updated at 10:13 a.m. President Donald Trump on Tuesday blasted Germany for its trade practices and what he views as its shortchanging of other NATO members, further weakening a partnership widely viewed as key to global stability.

The chief executive started his first full work day since returning Saturday night — from his first foreign trip — by firing off tweets that criticized Germany and the “fake news” media over its continuing coverage of a mounting scandal centered on possible ties between Russia and Trump’s presidential campaign and transition team. Later, he again called for Senate GOP leaders to alter the chamber's rules to allow legislation to pass with just 51 votes.

Trump used his first morning tweet to lash out at the European powerhouse, noting the United States has “a MASSIVE trade deficit with Germany” and saying that the Germans “pay FAR LESS than they should on NATO & military.”

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The U.S. president labeled both things “very bad for U.S.”

“This will change,” he added, though he provided no details on how his administration would force Berlin to pay more to the Western military alliance or shrink what the U.S. Census Bureau says was a $64.8 billion trade deficit with Germany in 2016 (down from $74.8 billion in 2015).

After a series of private meetings with Trump and other Western leaders last week during separate NATO and G7 summits, German Chancellor Angela Merkel told her countrymen during a campaign rally on Sunday that Europe “really must take our fate into our own hands.”

The post-World War II era during which European countries could rely on other powerful countries — an apparently thinly veiled reference to Trump’s “America first” presidency and the U.K.’s exit from the European Union — is “over to a certain extent,” Merkel continued. “This is what I have experienced in the last few days.”

The Tuesday morning tweet was Trump’s second attack on Berlin in a few days. Late last week, he blasted Germany over its auto exports to the United States.

“The Germans are bad, very bad,” President Trump allegedly said, according to German news magazine Der Spiegel, citing sources who were in the room. “See the millions of cars they sell in the U.S., terrible. We will stop this.”

The White House has yet to explain how the president will achieve that, other than to say he expects trade deals to be “fair.”

Trump’s chief economic adviser, Gary Cohn, on Friday morning confirmed to a pool reporter that Trump was critical of Germany.

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“He said they’re very bad on trade but he doesn’t have a problem with Germany,” Cohn said. “He said his dad is from Germany. He said, ‘I don’t have a problem Germany, I have a problem with German trade.’”

The U.S.-German relationship has been a crucial check on Russia for decades, but it appears to be fraying. The same appears true of Washington’s commitment to its NATO partners.

Both corroding relationships have long been goals of Russian President Vladimir Putin, raising speculation about Trump’s rhetoric and actions being more in line with the Kremlin than many of America’s closest European allies.

The declining relations between Washington and countries like Germany led Washington Post columnist Anne Applebaum to write on this in an op-ed published Sunday evening: The Russian government, which has long sought to expel the United States from the continent, is overjoyed: On Russian television, Trump was said to have turned NATO into a “house of cards.”

Trump also bashed the U.S. news media, tweeting Tuesday morning that “Russian officials must be laughing at the U.S.” for the media’s coverage of the scandal around possible nefarious ties between his associates and Russian officials, which he dismissed as a “lame excuse” by Democrats for losing the 2016 presidential election.

A few hours later, Trump was back on Twitter, using one post to call for the elimination of the Senate's 60-vote threshold to end debate on legislation. Though the president has called for the same in the past, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., says he is staunchly opposed to the idea.

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