catches the moment of the joke, also the failed handshake

Trump Answers Wiretap Question “At Least Merkel And I Have Something In Common”
Tyler Durden, Mar 17 2017

Following today’s latest developments over Trump’s allegations that GCHQ helped Obama to wiretap the Trump Tower, for which GCHQ demanded an apology, a German reporter asked Trump for his current opinion on whether Obama had indeed wiretapped him. The president gestured at Angela Merkel and said:

On wiretapping by this past administration, at least we have something in common!

Merkel’s reaction was similarly amusing: almost as if she had heard for the first time that in 2010, and for years onward, Barack Obama had been wiretapping her and countless other heads of state.

For those unsure what the exchange was about, we suggest this from the Telegraph:

Barack Obama ‘approved tapping Angela Merkel’s phone 3 years ago’ …  Pres Obama was told about monitoring of German Chancellor in 2010 and allowed it to continue, says German newspaper.

And incidentally, in yet another change in the official narrative, after both Sky News and the Telegraph reported earlier today that the White House had apologized to Britain over the accusation that its spy agency had helped Obama spy on Trump, the NYT reported that the White House has said there was no apology from either Spicer or McMaster, and that instead the Administration defended Spicer’s mention of the wiretapping story.

Finally, as Axios adds, after Trump and Merkel left the stage reporters again asked Sean Spicer whether he apologized for repeating an anonymously sourced Fox News claim that British intelligence helped in wiretapping Trump Tower. His response:

I don’t think we regret anything.

Trump And Merkel Joint Press Conference
Tyler Durden, Zero Hedge, Mar 17 2017

Arriving in Washington for her first face-to-face meeting with President Trump, after months of preparation and one postponement due to snow, Obama’s old friend German Chancellor Angela Merkel will likely discuss trade and immigration, though officials said there were few concrete goals.

Last month she met VP Pence in Munich, where he was delivering the first major foreign policy address of the Trump administration, and laid the groundwork for Friday’s meeting. As CNN notes, aides said they expected Merkel to appeal to Trump’s sense of businesslike efficiency. She’s used a workmanlike attitude and droll wit to make inroads with two previous presidents. With Bush 43, Merkel was able to cooperate on key economic issues, despite his deep unpopularity in Germany. With Obama, she forged a bond so deep and obvious it was parodied on “Saturday Night Live.” Remember, we already know what the Germans think of Trump


After the awkward non-handshake, the press conference could take uncomfortable to a whole new level given Trump’s comments during the campaign, criticizing her decision to allow hundreds of thousands of refugees to enter Germany. That decision was also unpopular in Germany, and Merkel has since said she’ll devote funds to sending refugees who weren’t granted asylum back to their home countries…

“Can We Get A Handshake?” The Press Asks (Spoiler Alert: No)
Tyler Durden, Zero Hedge, Mar 17 2017

Few recall what transpired one month ago when Japan’s PM Abe met with Donald Trump, but everyone remembers the infamous handshake:

Also le fiasco avec Theresa May – RB:

Today, as previewed, Trump is meeting with his European nemesis, the green-wearing German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and will hold a press conference at 1:20pm, although what most really wanted to know is whether Trump would unleash the infamous “handshake” yet again. This is what happened next:

And that is all you need to know about the current state of Pindo-German relations.

No, it isn’t – watch this:

Trump Warns Germany “Owes Vast Sums”
Tyler Durden, Mar 18 2017

Amid #NoHandshakeGate and the “we have something in common” moment, yesterday’s meeting between Trump and Merkel was at best cordial, judging by the G-20 discussions, and these latest tweets from Trump…

Of course this is not the first time he has pointed this out. NATO, he said, “has problems.” Bild quoted Trump as saying:

It is obsolete, first because it was designed many, many years ago, secondly, countries aren’t paying what they should … It didn’t deal with terrorism.

While those comments expanded on doubts Trump raised about NATO during his campaign, he reserved some of his most dismissive remarks for the EU and Merkel, whose open-border refugee policy he called a “catastrophic mistake.” Trump is 100% correct. Germany has been under-funding its defense budget for years. Pence said:

Our 28 member countries committed in 2014 to spending 2% of their GDP on defense within a decade. But only Pindostan and four other members are meeting the standard,. Failure to meet the commitment erodes the very foundation of our alliance. Let me be clear on this point: the POTUS expects our allies to keep their word, to fulfill this commitment and, for most, that means the time has come to do more.

More awkward looks to come…

Merkel and Trump hold crisis talks in Faschingstein
Johannes Stern, WSWS, Mar 18 2017

With tensions between Germany and Pindostan at their highest point since the end of WW2, the first meeting between Trump and Merkel took place on Friday in Faschingstein. The mood was tense and cold. At a joint photo op in the Oval Office, Trump barely acknowledged Merkel and refused the customary handshake requested by photographers. At a joint press conference following a White House meeting between Trump and Merkel, other officials and business leaders from the two countries, the two heads of state expressed agreement only on the questions of increased military spending and war. Merkel promised Trump that Germany would increase defence spending two percent above the NATO minimum. In return, Trump pledged his commitment to NATO. They agreed “to work together hand in hand in Afghanistan and to collaborate on solutions in Syria and Iraq.” The conflict between the two countries emerged most sharply on the issue of trade policy. Trump complained that the past behaviour of Pindo vassals had often been “unfair” and he insisted on a “fair trade policy.” What Trump means by this is clear. He threatened Germany with trade war in an interview he gave shortly before assuming office, specifically warning of import duties of up to 35% against the German automobile industry. Claiming that Germany’s behaviour toward Pindostan was “very unfair,” he said he would make sure this ended.

In the past week, Trump’s economic advisor Peter Navarro once again referred to the German trade surplus as a “serious matter” and called it “one of the most difficult problems” for Pindo trade policy. Pindostan is currently preparing a so-called “border adjustment tax” that would substantially diminish taxes on Pindo exports and place a heavy burden on German and other European imports. The growing transatlantic conflicts were also reflected at the G20 finance ministers’ summit in Baden Baden. The previous evening, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble met for the first time with his new Pindo counterpart Steven Mnuchin, who insisted that Pindostan did not want a trade war, but refused to support the inclusion in the closing G20 communiqué of the customary clear statement in favour of free trade and in opposition to protectionism. Trump’s protectionism is a catastrophe in particular for the export-oriented German economy. In 2015, Germany achieved a record surplus of €260b, which corresponded to more than 8% of its entire economic output. Trade with Pindostan accounted for €54b of the surplus. In the previous year as well, Pindostan provided the largest export market for German products, with a total value of €107b. Merkel’s delegation included leading German economic representatives, who were tasked with convincing Trump of the importance of free trade. But while the German government struggles to de-escalate tensions with Pindostan, it is simultaneously preparing retaliatory measures that are no less aggressive. The deputy chairman of the SPD parliamentary faction, Carsten Schneider, threatened capital controls. Schneider said:

Ultimately, Germany is financing a large portion of the American trade deficit with its capital exports. If Trump does not relent, we must be ready to act.

In a Friday morning interview with Deutschlandfunk, German Economics Minister Brigitte Zypries (SPD) said provocatively:

The other possibility is simple. We will file suit against him before the WTO. It lays down procedures. In the WTO, it is clearly specified in the agreements that you are allowed to take no more than 2.5% in taxes on the import of automobiles. This would not be the first time that Mr Trump failed in the courts.

The president of the Federation of German Industry (BDI), Dieter Kempf, asked Merkel prior to her trip to present Trump with “the standpoint of a German, a European economy … with appropriate self-confidence.” Trump’s views on economic policy would simply “not work,” he insisted. In order to counter Trump in the most effective way, Berlin is pursuing a strategy of preparation for trade war between Pindostan and the entire EU. Handelsblatt quoted the former chief economist of the Economics Ministry, Jeromin Zettelmeyer, as saying:

Germany needs the backing of the rest of Europe. They will have to wage a trade war against us, if possible.

According to a report in Der Spiegel, the aim of the German government is to “isolate the Pindosis.” To this end, EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstörm has been tasked with negotiating trade agreements “with other countries and regions of the world.” At the EU summit the previous week, the EU states spoke out against “protectionist tendencies” in world trade and positioned that would position the European economy against Pindostan, Der Spiegel reported. The final resolution of the EU summit said:

The EU will continue to collaborate actively with international trading partners. To this end, progress will be achieved with decisiveness in all ongoing negotiations with regard to ambitious and well-balanced free trade agreements, including with Mercosur and Mexico. The negotiations with Japan are “close to a conclusion soon, and trade relations with China should be strengthened on the basis of a common understanding of mutual and reciprocal benefit.

Berlin and Brussels are expanding their economic relationships with precisely those countries that are in the crosshairs of the Pindosi government. Trump is threatening Mexico with the termination of NAFTA, and Faschingstein is pursuing a course toward war against China with increasing openness. The conflicts between Germany and Pindostan will continue to sharpen as a consequence. In a significant move, Merkel spoke on the telephone with China’s Pres Xi Jinping immediately before traveling to Faschingstein. She took this opportunity to express her opposition to protectionism. According to Merkel’s government spokesperson, Steffen Seibert:

Merkel and Xi affirmed that they would promote free trade and open markets together. In addition, they agreed to continue their trusting collaboration, especially within the framework of the German G20 presidency.

Meanwhile, said a comment in the Reinische Post:

We demand an even clearer statement against the new Pindo protectionism. It is necessary that the majority of other countries be mobilized against Trump in the future. Germany and the EU must self-confidently oppose Trump with their own contrary aims, instead of letting themselves be intimidated by Washington. The conditions for this are favourable. It has become clear in Baden Baden that Germany has not only the other EU states, but also almost the entire rest of the world, above all China, Brazil and Japan, on its side regarding trade policy.

The fundamental reasons for Trump’s aggressive behaviour toward Berlin as well as Germany’s efforts to build a coalition against Pindostan are to be found in the insoluble contradictions of the capitalist system itself. Capitalism is incapable of overcoming the contradiction between the international character of production and the national state. As on the eve of WW1 & WW2, the conflicts between the imperialist powers over raw materials, export markets, zones of influence and cheap labour are once again leading to trade war and military conflict.

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