President Donald Trump questioned German Chancellor Angela Merkel about how to deal with Russian President Vladimir Putin during their at times heated discussions at the White House last week, according to two people familiar with the conversations.
Merkel, the longest-serving leader in the European Union, has a well-established history and rivalry with Putin. It’s not clear what advice she offered Trump, though the officials suggested the President at times didn’t really seem to be listening to the answers.
The officials said the one-on-one meeting was calm and Trump “behaved himself” but became agitated at a larger plenary session, which became contentious when he repeatedly raised the issue of Germany’s large trade surplus and its defense spending, which falls below the NATO-recommended threshold.
The White House denied CNN’s account of the discussions.
Trump has long railed on those two issues, both in public and private, but his tone surprised some German officials attending the meetings, who said they felt the session provided a “window into Trump’s mind.”