President Donald Trump's comments on Germany caused some confusion on May 26, as Press Secretary Sean Spicer seemed to deny Trump had made harsh comments right before Trump's economic chief, Gary Cohn, confirmed the comments were made.
Initially, German-language newspaper Der Spiegel reported that Trump called Germany "evil, very evil." The comments were reportedly made to European Union Council head Donald Tusk and EU President Jean-Claude Juncker.
However, Juncker later attempted to clarify the report, according to Daily Mail: "The record has to be set straight," Juncker said. "It's not true that the president took an aggressive approach when it came to the German trade surplus."
Juncker added that Trump was "not aggressive at all."
Further confusion arose when New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman tweeted about the story: "Germans are 'bad, very bad' or 'evil, very evil,' depending on translation of what Trump reportedly told EU leaders."
Spicer pushed back on Twitter in responding to Haberman: "Except it's not true: Juncker says Trump was not aggressive on German trade surplus."
Spicer was not in the meeting in which the alleged comments were made, while Cohn was.
Asked to clarify the situation soon after Spicer's tweet, Cohn explained that the Der Spiegel report used a translation of Trump's words that was harsher than intended: "He said they're very bad on trade but he doesn't have a problem with Germany. He said, 'I don't have a problem with Germany, I have a problem with German trade.'"
Trump previously expressed frustration with Germany in relation to trade, threatening to impose a 35 percent import tax on BMW cars assembled in Mexico as a way to encourage manufacturers to move to the U.S.
"If you want to build cars in the world, then I wish you all the best. You can build cars for the United States, but for every car that comes to the USA, you will pay 35 percent tax," he said. "I would tell BMW that if you are building a factory in Mexico and plan to sell cars to the USA, without a 35 percent tax, then you can forget that."
During his trip, Trump also spoke at his first NATO summit, during which he criticized other countries for not paying their fair share to the organization.
"Twenty-three of the 28 member nations are still not paying what they should be paying and what they’re supposed to be paying for their defense," he said, The New York Times reported.
"This is not fair to the people and taxpayers of the United States. And many of these nations owe massive amounts of money from past years and not paying in those past years."
The NATO speech was part of Trump's first overseas trip as president, which also included an audience with the Pope at the Vatican and visits to Europe, Saudi Arabia and Israel.