German Chancellor Angela Merkel met with President Donald Trump today for the first time, though it is safe to say the two have talked “about” each other quite a bit. For instance, Trump has said in the past that he believes Merkel is “ruining Germany” and has made a “catastrophic mistake” in her decision to welcome more than one million migrants and refugees over the last few years, mentioning on the campaign trail that he doesn’t know “what the hell she’s thinking.”
According to a CNBC interview with global policy expert Joerg Forbrig, Merkel has done an extensive amount of research to prepare for today’s meeting—including reading Playboy. “We know, for instance, she’s read articles on Donald Trump from a 1990 edition of Playboy magazine. That’s how deeply she’s delved in order to avoid exactly the sort of things going wrong that we have seen going wrong with a couple of leaders that have already come to Washington to see Donald Trump,“ he said.
For those who haven’t read the now-infamous Interview, for which Trump appeared on the cover of Playboy, the real estate mogul discusses politics at length, saying if he ever did run for president, he’d run as a Democrat since the "working man” likes him. Another quote from our interview that is now hilariously prescient: “I think any man enjoys flirtations, and if he said he didn’t, he’d be lying or he’d be a politician trying to get the extra four votes. I think everybody likes knowing he’s well responded to. Especially as you get into certain strata where there is an ego involved and a high level of success, it’s important. People really like the idea that other people respond well to them.” That magazine still hangs in his office at Trump Tower in New York.
Today, the two world leaders had planned to have a mature discussion today on a wide range of issues, from NATO to Putin, but who the hell knows how things went behind closed doors. Merkel, who faces a national election in September, was expected to emphasize that an import tax on German goods to the U.S. would ultimately hurt both nations in the long run. According to NPR, Merkel, who attended the meeting alongside executives from BMW, Siemens and Schaeffle (an industrial parts manufacturer), says she “wants to make the point that these companies have created thousands of jobs in the United States.“ The chancellor hoped to remind Trump that BMW’s plant in South Carolina exported more cars than GM and Ford together from America. "I’ll make that clear,” she had mentioned.
At their press conference following the meeting, however, it didn’t look like the conversation went so great. Trump childishly denied Merkel a handshake from Trump in front of the media, which had asked them to lock hands for a picture. The tension with the photo op alone could be cut with a knife, despite trying their damndest to appear cordial.
When questioned about his unfounded wiretapping allegations against Obama, Trump deflected his response. In an effort to make a joke, Trump argued that he and Merkel “Have something in common,” as Merkel’s phone was tapped by Americans during the Obama administration. “You shouldn’t be talking to me, you should be talking to Fox,” he ultimately responded. (Nobody laughed.)
In terms of information, Merkel didn’t add much to the discussion either and admitted the two hadn’t “spoken at length” about economic issues. Citing the success of Germany’s relationship with South Korea, however, Merkel says that spirit of unity should guide Germany and the the United States in future negotiations.
Trump, on the other hand, kept toting America’s strength. “I think we are going to be a very different country,” he said, promoting “good honest deals” with businesses and nations and insisting the nation’s military has “never been stronger.” Merkel did manage to throw some shade when she scoffed, “A free trade agreement has never been all that popular in Germany, either.”
Clearly, this “meeting” was more or less that: an instance where two political leaders met. That’s it. The two clearly hadn’t reached any conclusions, nor were any pressing questions answered. Considering this disappointing press conference, the strongest insight of the day came when a reporter asked Trump is he regrets any of his ludicrous tweets. His response: “Very seldom.”