German Chancellor Angela Merkel speaks to U.S. President Donald Trump during the second day of the G7 meeting in Charlevoix city of La Malbaie, Quebec, Canada, June 9, 2018.
Jesco Denzel/Bundesregierung/Handout via Reuters

Why Trump’s lies about German crime are so important

The European edition of Politico had a report earlier this month that said, “It’s difficult to overstate just how enraged Germany is about Trump. By questioning and criticizing such bastions of the Western order as NATO, the World Trade Organization and even the EU, Trump has thrust Germany’s leadership into an existential torpor it has yet to escape.”

Around the same time, a senior German official told the New Yorker’s Susan Glasser, “It took Germany the longest of all partners to come to terms with someone like Trump becoming president. We were very emotional, because our relationship with America is so emotional – it’s more of a son-father relationship – and we didn’t recognize our father anymore and realized he might beat us.”

Just last week in Berlin, Heiko Maas, Germany’s foreign minister, delivered a rather brutal speech in which he declared, “Donald Trump’s egotistical politics of ‘America First,’ Russia’s attacks on international law and state sovereignty, the expansion of gigantic China: the world order we were used to – it no longer exists.”

It’s against this backdrop that the American president bragged on Friday about his “great relationship” with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, only to take his message to Germany in a more contentious direction this morning.

“The people of Germany are turning against their leadership as migration is rocking the already tenuous Berlin coalition. Crime in Germany is way up. Big mistake made all over Europe in allowing millions of people in who have so strongly and violently changed their culture!

“We don’t want what is happening with immigration in Europe to happen with us!”

Offensive Trump tweets aren’t exactly rare, but these missives stand out for a few important reasons.

First, the Republican president is simply lying about crime rates in Germany. Instead of being “way up,” they’ve actually dropped to their lowest points since the early 1990s. Why did Trump say the opposite? Because for him, the line between what is true and what he’d like to be true is easily blurred. (Trump lying about crime rates, especially in urban areas and areas with a lot of immigrants, is one of his favorite things to lie about.)

Second, when conservative reactionaries start talking about immigrants “violently changing” the “culture” of a predominantly white country, the racist subtext is hard to miss.

And third, this is a delicate moment for relations between the United States and Germany, and the White House seems indifferent to the fact that the president and his ambassador in Berlin, Richard Grenell, are engaged in antics that are giving Germans new reasons to question our partnership.

Unprompted, Trump published a dishonest and racially charged political attack against an ostensible ally this morning – making a bad situation, which he created, quite a bit worse.

Angela Merkel, Diplomacy, Donald Trump, Foreign Policy and Germany

Why Trump's lies about German crime are so important