WASHINGTON (CBSNewYork/AP) — President Donald Trump welcomed German Chancellor Angela Merkel to the White House Friday for a series of discussions on strengthening NATO and fighting the Islamic State group.
The two leaders posed for photographers in the Oval Office before a one-on-one meeting, with Trump at one point joking “send a good picture back to Germany, please.”
Following their day of meetings, the two held a joint news conference Friday afternoon during which Trump stressed the need to protect the U.S. from what he calls “radical Islamic terrorism.”
The remarks come days after a federal court again struck down his executive order temporarily suspending the U.S. refugee program and barring people from a handful of Muslim-majority countries.
Trump said that both countries must protect themselves from the threat.
“Immigration is a privilege, not a right, and the safety of our citizens must always come first, without question,” the president said.
Trump spent a good part of 2016 bashing the chancellor, accusing her of “ruining” Germany for allowing an influx of refugees into Germany.
While Merkel insists that Germany will continue to take in people who genuinely need protection, her government has toughened asylum rules.
Trump also said he told Merkel that he has “strong support” for NATO but that allies “must pay what they owe.”
Trump, making his first appearance with Merkel, opened their White House news conference by saying that “many nations owe vast sums of money” and that situation is “very unfair to the United States.”
Trump said these nations need “to pay their fair share” in order to receive the promise of defense from the rest of the alliance.
The president has long complained that the U.S. shoulders too much of the burden of the cost of the alliance, which now comprises 28 nations.
Merkel said she was encouraged that Trump supports NATO, stressed its vital role and pledged that Germany will increase its own payments.
As CBS2’s Jessica Moore reported, a German reporter asked Trump whether his position on trade would isolate the United States from the rest of the world.
“First of all, I don’t believe in an isolationist policy, but I also believe in a fair trade policy,” Trump said. “The U.S. has been treated very unfairly in trade over the years and that is going to stop.”
Merkel was originally supposed to visit the White House Tuesday, but that meeting was delayed due to snow.
Of her visit with Trump, Merkel said that it’s “much better to talk to one another than about one another.”
Meanwhile in a separate news conference Friday – this one half a world away with South Korea’s foreign minister – Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the U.S. is open to using military force if necessary to stop the North Korean nuclear program.
“If they elevate their threat of their weapons program to a level that we believe requires action, that option is on the table,” Tillerson said.
Earlier Friday, Trump met with Republican lawmakers to changes to the health care bill, which he said are increasing support for the legislation among the GOP.
House Republicans plan to vote on the bill next Thursday.
The president also met with leaders from the Department of Veterans Affairs about reforming the VA.
“We’re all united by a very common mission — we will protect those who protect us,” Trump said.
The Trump administration also apologized to Britain Friday, after press secretary Sean Spicer quoted a Fox News report that British intelligence may have helped the Obama administration to wiretap Trump Tower.
But Trump himself was unapologetic at his news conference with Merkel.
“As far as wiretapping, I guess, by, you know, past administration, at least we have something in common, perhaps,” Trump said of himself and Merkel.
Trump was suggesting that in 2013, the U.S. listened in on Merkel’s phone calls. Merkel did not respond to the comments.
(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)