German Chancellor Angela Merkel has been poring over old interviews and video of Donald Trump, seeking clues on how to influence the incoming U.S. president when they first meet, according to two people familiar with her preparations.
Merkel, the European leader who’s been most in Trump’s sights before his inauguration, was struck by the frenzied supporters at his post-election “Thank You” tour rallies and by an archived interview with Playboy magazine that quoted Trump as saying he’d only run for president if he saw the U.S. “continue to go down the tubes,” said the people, who asked not to be named discussing private conversations.
Merkel is trying to take the new president’s measure while gearing up her own campaign for a fourth term in Germany’s fall election, where she’s already using Trump as a foil. The chancellery in Berlin has reached out to Trump’s transition team to suggest an early meeting, which would give Merkel a chance to get Trump’s ear and counter his dismissive views on the European Union, NATO and free trade, according to another government official.
“The chancellor is in a very good position to focus and positively influence the image of Germany and Europe with the incoming U.S. president,” Juergen Hardt, a senior lawmaker for Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union, said in an interview. “Her experience and mastery of the issues will stand her in good stead.”