Trump in new attack on German trade tactics and defence spend
Twitter attack latest sign of escalating tensions between long-time partners
Angela Merkel and Donald Trump at last week’s G7 summit: US press secretary Sean Spicer is seeking to downplay reports of tensions between the two leaders. Photograph: Philippe Wojazer/AFP/Getty Images
US president Donald Trump hit out at Germany on Tuesday, as repercussions from his first foreign trip as president continued, threatening to undermine the transatlantic relationship between the United States and Europe.
On his first full-day back at the White House following Memorial weekend, the US president took to twitter to criticise Germany. “We have a MASSIVE trade deficit with Germany, plus they pay FAR LESS than they should on NATO & military. Very bad for U.S. This will change,” he tweeted.
The intervention by the US president marked the latest sign of escalating tensions between Berlin and Washington following last week’s Nato and G7 meeting at which the US president clashed with European allies on several issues, including the US’ continued commitment to Nato and the Paris climate agreement.
German chancellor Angela Merkel used an appearance at an election rally in Munich at the weekend to question the future of the transatlantic partnership, arguing that Europe could no longer rely on Britain and the United States, citing her experience in the previous days during which time she met with the US president in Brussels and Sicily.
Press secretary Sean Spicer sought to downplay reports of tensions between the two leaders.
“I think the relationship that the president has had with Merkel he would describe as fairly unbelievable. They get on very well. He has a lot of respect for her,” he said during a press briefing at the White House, adding that both leaders developed their “bond” during last week’s G7 meeting.
Mr Spicer used his first public press briefing since Mr Trump’s foreign trip to set out the achievements of what he called an “historic” visit which represented “an extraordinary week for America and our people”. Recounting that Mr Trump’s speech in Saudi Arabia had been “met with near universal praise” he said that the US president had helped strengthen alliances.
He also claimed that the G7 summit in Sicily was an “outstanding success”.
Mr Spicer’s appearance came following confirmation that White House communications director Mike Dubke resigned from his post after less than three months in the job, amid widespread expectations that a broader shake-up of the White House communications team could be imminent as the Trump administration seeks to limit the damage unleashed by an onslaught of revelations about the administration’s links with Russia.
Asked about a possible change in personnel Mr Spicer said that the president was “very pleased with his team,” but noted that “ultimately the best messenger is the president himself.”
He also sharply criticised the media for perpetrating “fake news,” citing as an example tweets sent by BBC and New York Times reporters during the G7 summit claiming that Mr Trump had disrespected the Italian prime minister.
As the connections between Trump’s adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner and Russia continued to dominate discussion in Washington, Mr Spicer declined to answer specific questions about whether the president knew about alleged moves by Mr Kushner to set up covert communications with Russia during the presidential transitional period. Mr Spicer claimed that the questions “presupposes facts that have not been confirmed”, though he highlighted the fact that national security adviser JR McMaster and homeland security chief John Kelly had both said that backchannel communications were commonplace in previous administrations.
The US president retweeted a Fox News report on Tuesday claiming Mr Kushner did not suggest establishing a Russian communications channel in his meeting with Russian ambassador Sergei Kislyak, as reported by numerous media outlets since Friday.