German chancellor Angela Merkel arrived at the White House earlier today for her first face-to-face meeting with President Donald Trump. Many media sources speculated that this meeting would be tense, which makes sense given their particular history.
After all, Angela Merkel has publicly spoken out against the travel ban that Donald Trump has repeatedly tried to put into action. Trump has previously stated that Merkel is “ruining Germany,” by allowing refugees and migrants to enter the country.
Donald Trump and Angela Merkel were scheduled to have a closed-door meeting, followed quickly by a joint press conference. Their meeting was apparently either very tense or extremely productive because they didn’t appear at the press conference until more than 45 minutes after it was supposed to start.
Scrutinizing the Uncomfortable Moment between the Two
When Chancellor Merkel first arrived at the White House, she shared what appeared to be an amiable handshake with President Trump. However, awkwardness ensued during the press portion of their meeting when they were repeatedly asked to pose for photos while shaking hands.
Neither political leader looked enthused by the idea of shaking hands again, but Angela Merkel offered to maintain some semblance of normality by asking Donald Trump, “Do you want to do the handshake?” Trump responded by ignoring her altogether, and a brief flicker of displeasure was quickly replaced by a bemused expression on the Chancellor Merkel’s face.
Photographers: Can we get a handshake?
Merkel (to Trump): Do you want to have a handshake?
Trump: *no response*
Merkel: *makes awkward face* pic.twitter.com/ehgpCnWPg7
— David Mack (@davidmackau) March 17, 2017
This type of thing isn’t typical in the political world, but Donald Trump has shown again and again that shaking hands isn’t necessarily his strong suit. In fact, there have been several video instances that document him giving handshakes that have been described as everything from awkward to aggressive.
However, Donald Trump completely ignoring the request to shake Angela Merkel’s hand could potentially be interpreted as disrespectful or even hostile toward Chancellor Merkel and Germany.
Donald Trump and Angela Merkel Press Conference Highlights
Handshake snafu aside, Donald Trump and Angela Merkel pressed forward with a series of question from the media. Merkel remained composed and indicated that she believes the president is standing up for the interests of America. Less than three minutes later, Trump was bashing reports that he’s an isolationist by dubbing them as “fake news.”
Reporters tried several times to ask questions that would bring out the tension between the two leaders, but what finally worked was mentioning NAFTA. Angela Merkel made it clear that she disagrees with Trump’s assertion that NAFTA is “a disaster for workers.” On the contrary, Merkel revealed that Germany’s trade deals with South Korea have actually created new jobs.
Donald Trump did praise Angela Merkel when the topic was changed to NATO. Trump stated that he is in full support of NATO, and he thanked Merkel for committing 2 percent of Germany’s GDP to funding for the intergovernmental military alliance. Trump also opined that it’s “very unfair” that some of the NATO allies don’t pay what he considers to be their fair share.
U.K. Wiretapping Claims Addressed by President Trump
The media latched onto the opportunity to directly question Donald Trump about recent claims from his administration that the U.K. wiretapped Trump Tower. Earlier today, the White House issued a statement apologizing to the U.K., so it’s not a surprise that Trump stated he never made any allegations against them. Instead, he said that he was quoting a Fox analyst with a “very talented legal mind.”
It remains to be seen what else was discussed during the meeting, or whether or not today’s handshake snub will impact future international relations. Angela Merkel and Donald Trump definitely had an awkward moment in front of the cameras, but what’s really of interest is whatever happened behind closed doors and how that may alter things between the U.S. and Germany going forward.
[Featured Image by Pool/Getty Images]