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POLITICS

Trump ‘did not refuse to shake Merkel’s hand’, says spokesperson

Donald Trump's spokesman has denied that the US president refused to shake hands with German Chancellor Angela Merkel as they say side-by-side in the White House last week.

Trump 'did not refuse to shake Merkel's hand', says spokesperson
The two leaders shake hands later on Friday, after an awkward joint press conference. Photo: DPA

“I don't think he heard the question” posed by Merkel when she suggested they shake hands, in full view of press cameras, spokesman Sean Spicer told German weekly Der Spiegel published Sunday.

The quote was translated into English from Der Spiegel's online German website.

The veteran German chancellor had arrived for her first meeting with Trump at a snowy White House hoping to reverse a chill in relations after Trump's incendiary election rhetoric, in which he called Merkel's acceptance of refugees a “catastrophic mistake” and suggested she was “ruining Germany.”

The visit on Friday began cordially, with the pair shaking hands at the entrance of the White House. But later, sitting side-by-side in the Oval Office, Merkel's suggestion of another handshake went unheard or ignored by Trump – an awkward moment in what are usually highly scripted occasions.

German media pointed to the incident as another marker of the meeting's general icy mood between the cautious German chancellor and impulsive US president.

In a frequently awkward joint press conference in the East Room, Trump and Merkel showed little common ground as they addressed a host of thorny issues including NATO, defense spending and free trade deals.

For most of the 30 minutes, Merkel was stony-faced as Trump ripped into Washington's NATO allies for not paying for their “fair share” for transatlantic defense and demanded “fair and reciprocal trade” deals.

On Sunday, Germany's biggest-selling daily Bild said that throughout the White House meeting, not once did Trump look her in the eye.

POLITICS

‘Winter of rage’: Experts warn of riots in Germany due to rising energy costs

Experts are warning that economic hardship may lead to protests throughout Germany in autumn and winter - and that they could be infiltrated by right-wing extremists.

'Winter of rage': Experts warn of riots in Germany due to rising energy costs

In view of rising energy costs, supply difficulties, growing unemployment and general pessimism about the future, authorities in Germany are warning that there will be mass protests this year – and that these are likely to be abused by extremists.

The warnings come from civil servants from the federal offices for the Protection of the Constitution or Bundesverfassungsschutz – Germany’s watchdog for safeguarding free democracy at the federal level and in the 16 states.

Stephan Kramer, president of Thuringia’s Office for the Protection of the Constitution, told German broadcaster ZDF that, following the pandemic and the world events of recent months, there is a “highly emotionalised, aggressive, future-pessimistic mood” among the population, “whose trust in the state, its institutions and political actors is tainted by massive doubts”.

He expects that “legitimate protests” will be infiltrated by extremists, especially those from the so-called Querdenker (lateral thinking) scene and that it is likely that some will turn violent.

READ ALSO: How Germany is saving energy ahead of uncertain winter

“What we have experienced so far in the Covid pandemic in terms of partly violent confrontations on social networks, but also in the streets and squares, was probably more like a children’s birthday party in comparison,” Kramer said.

The head of Hamburg’s Office for the Protection of the Constitution, Torsten Voß, told the Funke Mediengruppe that he expects “extremist conspiracy ideologues and other enemies of the constitution” will try to abuse protests for their ideological purposes.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, he said “a spectrum of radical opponents of vaccination and so-called Covid deniers have built up a protest infrastructure, with contacts and channels for mobilisation”. This group will try to use this infrastructure for the energy security protests in the autumn, he said.

READ ALSO: German households could see ‘four-digit’ rise in energy costs this winter

Brandenburg’s head of the Office for the Protection of the Constitution, Jörg Müller, also fears that extremists could exploit the energy crisis and high inflation fears for their own purposes.

“Extremists dream of a German winter of rage” he told Welt am Sonntag. “They hope that the energy crisis and price increases will hit people particularly hard so that they can pick up on the mood and advertise their anti-state aspirations. We are following these goings-on with watchful eyes and open ears.”

Vocabulary:

Constitution – (die) Verfassung

Rage – (die) Wut

Violent – gewalttätig

We’re aiming to help our readers improve their German by translating vocabulary from some of our news stories. Did you find this article useful? Let us know.

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