German reporters press Trump on wiretap claims, ‘fake news’

Foreign reporters challenged President Trump to address his wiretapping accusation and attacks on the media at a joint press conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Friday.
 
A German reporter asked Trump whether he regrets claiming that former President Obama bugged Trump Tower during the presidential campaign, provoking Trump to joke about reports that the National Security Agency had once monitored Merkel’s phone under Obama.
 
“As far as wiretapping, I guess by this past administration, at least we have something in common, perhaps,” Trump said with a grin during an otherwise subdued press conference.
 
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Trump beat back questions about why the White House had accused Britain’s intelligence agency of having helped Obama surveil Trump Tower, saying press secretary Sean Spicer had merely read aloud a report from a Fox News legal analyst.
 
“We said nothing. All we did was quote a certain very talented legal mind who was the one responsible for saying that on television. I did not make an opinion on it,” Trump said. 
 
“That was a statement made by a very talented lawyer on Fox. So you should not be talking to me. You should be talking to Fox.”
 
Another German reporter was more aggressive with Trump, asking why he is "so scared of diversity in the news and the media that you speak so often of a ‘fake news’ and that things that in the end cannot be proven, like for the fact that you were wiretapped by Mr. Obama."
 
“Nice, friendly reporter,” Trump said.
 
Rather than respond to that question, Trump answered a question directed at Merkel about whether she believes the president’s "isolationist policy" is “dangerous.”
 
“I don't believe in an isolationist policy,” Trump said. “But I also believe a policy of trade should be a fair policy. The United States has been treated very, very unfairly by many countries over the years, and that is going to stop. I am not an isolationist. I'm a free trader, but I am also a fair trader. … But I am not an isolationist by any stretch of the imagination.”
 
“So I don't know what newspaper you are reading, but I guess that would be another example of, as you say, fake news,” Trump said.
 
American reporter Mark Halperin asked Merkel how she found working with Trump, who he said “has a different style than most.”

“People have different abilities, characteristics, traits of character, origins, they have found their way into politics along different pathways,” Merkel responded. “There is diversity, that is good. Sometimes it is difficult to find compromises, but that is what we have been elected for. If everything just went like that without [a] problem, we would not need politicians to do these jobs.”

Trump has been highly critical of Merkel’s immigration policies, saying that her open-borders policy has led to an immigration crisis in which potentially dangerous people from Middle Eastern countries have failed to assimilate. 

The president’s executive orders temporarily banning immigrants from several Muslim-majority countries — both of which have been swatted down by federal courts — have been among the most controversial of his young presidency.

On Friday, Trump and Merkel said they would work together to combat the threat of terrorism.

“Together we fight against Islamic terrorism,” Merkel said. “Germany is going to step up its work and continue its work and Afghanistan and also in Syria. We are going to monitor the situation very closely, work on political solutions and Syria but also in Libya.”

Trump, who has sent conflicting signals about his support for NATO, declared his “strong support” for the alliance on Friday — but with a caveat.

“I reiterated to chancellor Merkel my strong support for NATO, as well as the need for our allies to pay their fair share for the cost of defense,” Trump said.  “Many nations owe vast sums of money from past years. And it is very unfair to the United States. These nations must pay what they owe.”

Merkel said that Germany intends to ramp up its NATO spending to 2 percent of the nation’s GDP.

The leaders also discussed shared business interests at length. 

Trump praised Germany’s workforce development and vocational training programs and said the U.S. could learn from such programs. 

The leaders indicated that the U.S. and Germany would be negotiating a bilateral trade deal separate from the European Union. Trump said that Germany has benefitted more from trade with the U.S. in the past and that he hopes the two can reach a more mutually beneficial deal going forward.

“Hopefully we can even it out,” Trump said. “We don't want victory. We want fairness. All I want is fairness. Germany has done very well in its trade deals with the United States, and I give them credit for it.”

Merkel called the meetings “a very good first exchange of views.” 

“I can say there are a number of issues where we will continue to cooperate very closely on the level of experts but also on our level,” she said.