How do you say "awkward" in German?
President Donald Trump is set to appear at a joint news conference today with German Chancellor Angela Merkel after he spent months during the 2016 election campaign bad-mouthing her approach to the refugee crisis in Europe.
Trump’s tough comments during the campaign about Merkel and what he called the "disaster" that Germany had become stood out because he had previously praised her in 2015 as "probably the greatest leader in the world today."
Merkel has been more restrained in her public comments about Trump, offering only subtle criticism at times. The congratulatory letter she sent him after his election victory suggested she is fully prepared to continue the longstanding U.S.-German alliance, yet hinted at some disapproval of Trump's rhetoric as a candidate.
Here’s a full recap of the two leaders’ public statements about one another.
What Trump has said about Merkel
Back in August 2015, Trump complimented Merkel in an interview with Time Magazine.
The kudos for the German leader came at the expense of U.S. lawmakers, whom Trump was criticizing for financially supporting the Ukrainian government in its fight against Russian-supporting separatists.
"Germany’s like sitting back silent collecting money and making a fortune with probably the greatest leader in the world today, Merkel," Trump told Time. "She’s fantastic … highly respected."
But just two months later, Trump questioned the chancellor's judgment about Europe's immigration and refugee crisis in a "Face the Nation" interview.
"I love a safe zone for people. I do not like the migration. I do not like the people coming. Frankly, look, Europe is going to have to handle -- but they're going to have riots in Germany. What's happening in Germany, I always thought Merkel was like this great leader. What she's done in Germany is insane. It is insane. They're having all sorts of attacks," Trump said in the October 2015 interview.
The following year, in a campaign speech in Ohio in August, Trump compared his then-rival Hillary Clinton to Merkel and not in the kindest way.
"Hillary Clinton wants to be America’s Angela Merkel, and you know what a disaster this massive immigration has been to Germany and the people of Germany. Crime has risen to levels that no one thought would they would ever see," Trump said.
"We have enough problems in our country, we don’t need another one," the candidate said.
What Merkel has said about Trump
Merkel has been fairly restrained overall in the few comments she has made about the president. In contrast, she openly praised Trump's predecessor.
Former President Obama included Germany on his final foreign trip in November, saying that Merkel had "probably been my closest international partner these past eight years."
Merkel thanked Obama for "a good, friendly and intensive partnership," adding, "It’s hard for me to say goodbye."
When the German leader congratulated Trump for his election win, she took the opportunity to offer a bit of a warning.
In a letter to Trump the day after the November election, Merkel started by congratulating him and finished by wishing him "a sure hand, [and] every success." But in between she worked in some potentially loaded comments.
"Germany’s ties with the United States of America are deeper than with any country outside of the European Union. Germany and America are bound by common values — democracy, freedom, as well as respect for the rule of law and the dignity of each and every person, regardless of their origin, skin color, creed, gender, sexual orientation, or political views. It is based on these values that I wish to offer close cooperation, both with me personally and between our countries’ governments," she wrote.
"Partnership with the United States is and will remain a keystone of German foreign policy, especially so that we can tackle the great challenges of our time: striving for economic and social well-being, working to develop far-sighted climate policy, pursuing the fight against terrorism, poverty, hunger, and disease, as well as protecting peace and freedom in the world," the letter continued.
Beyond that opening letter, the chancellor has not spoken at length about Trump specifically.
She talked to him on Jan. 28 at a time when Trump called a number of world leaders. The White House readout of their call states they "held an extensive telephone conversation covering a range of issues, including NATO, the situation in the Middle East and North Africa, relations with Russia, and the Ukraine crisis."
The next day, however, Merkel's spokesman delivered her criticism of the first iteration of Trump’s travel ban.
"The chancellor regrets the U.S. entry ban against refugees and citizens from several countries," spokesman Steffen Seibert, told Der Spiegel on Jan. 29. "She is convinced that even the necessary, decisive battle against terrorism does not justify putting people of a specific background or faith under general suspicion."
Now Merkel and Trump are set to meet this afternoon and hold a joint press conference at the White House. The session comes after plans for a meeting earlier this week was rescheduled due to the snow storm that hit the East Coast.