White House adviser clarifies Trump criticism of Germany

PHOTO: President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting with President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Junker and European Council President Donald Tusk at European Union headquarters, May 25, 2017, in Brussels.PlayEvan Vucci/AP Photo
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A White House adviser is clearing up comments made by President Donald Trump that "the Germans are bad, very bad."

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German publication Der Spiegel reported that Trump “voiced significant displeasure” about Germany’s trade surplus during a meeting with European Union leaders in Brussels, Belgium.

On Friday morning in Taormina, Sicily, the site of a meeting with G7 leaders, White House chief economic adviser Gary Cohn said Trump’s comments were about trade.

"He said they're very bad on trade but he doesn't have a problem with Germany,” said Cohn. “He said his dad is from Germany. He said, 'I don't have a problem with Germany, I have a problem with German trade.'"

Trump has taken aim at the German car industry in the past. In an interview with German newspaper Bild, Trump described trade between the two countries as “out of balance.”

“If you go down Fifth Avenue everyone has a Mercedes-Benz in front of his house, isn’t that the case?” said Trump. “The fact is that … there is no reciprocity. How many Chevrolets do you see in Germany? Not very many, maybe none at all it’s a one-way street. It must work both ways.”

Cohn also addressed Trump’s position on the Paris climate accord. G7 leaders have expressed concern over the United States potentially pulling out of the international agreement and setting back efforts mitigate climate change.

Cohn said the president will be listening to concerns from European leaders.

"I think he's learning to understanding the European position,” said Cohn. “Look, as you know from the U.S., there's very strong views on both sides. Both sides are running ads. So he knows that in the U.S., there's very strong opinions on both sides but he also knows that Paris has important meaning to many of the European leaders. And he wants to clearly hear what the European leaders have to say."

Trump is still deciding whether or not the U.S. will stay in the agreement. On Thursday, twenty-two Senate Republicans, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, sent a letter to the White House urging the president to pull out of the deal, citing concerns about jobs.

But even in the White House, Trump has been faced with two sides of the debate. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, former chief executive of Exxon, supports the deal while Environmental Protection Agency administrator Scott Pruitt disagrees.

Pope Francis nudged Trump about climate change during their meeting at the Vatican this week. As a gift, the Pope presented Trump with his 2015 encyclical "Laudato Si," which calls for global action on the issue.

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