Former President Barack Obama indirectly criticized President Donald Trump's approach to foreign policy and border security during an event in Berlin. German Chancellor Angela Merkel appeared with Obama to debate foreign affairs, hours before she was scheduled to meet with President Donald Trump (video below).
On May 25, Obama attended a Berlin forum commemorating the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Church. The event was attended by a crowd of roughly 70,000.
The former president had been invited to attend the forum a year beforehand by Merkel. The date happened to coincide with Trump's visit to Brussels, where Merkel was scheduled to join him for the annual NATO summit.
"When we agreed to do this, they had not yet set the Trump schedule, we did not in fact know he would be there when we made this decision," an Obama Foundation official told CNN.
During the forum, Obama offered his assessment of international events, noting the terrorist attack that occurred in Manchester, England, on May 22.
"It is a reminder that there is a great danger of terrorism and people who would do great harm to others just because they’re different," Obama said, according to the Guardian. "How heartbroken we are by the loss of life, and we grieve with the families.”
The president proceeded to offer an indirect critique of his successor's foreign policy vision. Obama spoke of the importance of U.S. foreign aid to struggling countries, contrasting it with the Trump administration's proposal to reallocate significant portions of foreign aid funding to the military.
“If there are disruptions in those countries and conflicts and bad governance, war and poverty, in this new world that we live in, we can’t isolate ourselves, we can’t hide behind a wall,” Obama added.
Though the former president's statement could be perceived as a knock against Trump's proposal to construct a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, Obama never directly mentioned his successor during his remarks.
Former Obama adviser David Axelrod asserted that the former president would remain vocal about his policy vision but avoid overt criticisms of Trump.
"President Obama is acutely aware of the parameters of his role but also the power of the platform," Axelrod told Politico. “He's not going to be the point of the spear in the political wars.”
During the forum, Obama also defended his administration's controversial drone program as a necessary tool that eliminated terrorist threats.
"Hopefully over time it’s a battle of ideas and not just a battle of weapons so that we can convince fewer and fewer young people to get involved with ISIS," Obama said. "But as long as they’re functioning out there, we are going to have to protect our people.”