Donald Trump showed Angela Merkel his bedroom on her most recent visit to Washington, the US ambassador to Germany has claimed.
In one of the more bizarre attempts to defend Mr Trump’s personal relations with the German chancellor, Richard Grenell said the president had given her a “very personal” tour of his private living quarters.
“Donald Trump personally led the Chancellor through the part of the White House where he actually lives,” Mr Grenell said in an interview with several German newspapers.
“Angela Merkel even saw the president’s living room and bedroom. That was very personal. No president has shown that to her before.”
The US has been at pains to deny reports that Mr Trump and Mrs Merkel have a strained relationship.
While the president has gone out of his way to welcome other European leaders to the White House, holding hands with Theresa May and brushing dandruff from Emmanuel Macron’s shoulder, he has appeared cold towards the German chancellor.
On her first visit he did not respond when she offered to shake hands, and when she returned last week she was given only a quick working visit rather than the pomp and ceremony rolled out for Mr Macron.
But Mr Grenell claimed Mr Trump and Mrs Merkel have “great chemistry” and said the two leaders were able to joke together.
Although they have “different views on some issues” Mr Trump has “incredible respect” for the chancellor, he said.
Mrs Merkel had a particularly close working relationship with Barack Obama, despite differences with his administration over US spying in Germany.
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She has struggled to forge a similar relationship with Mr Trump against the backdrop of his threats of US tariffs on European imports and his demands that Germany spend more on its defence.
Mr Grenell, one of Mr Trump’s highest profile new ambassadors, got off to a controversial start after his long-delayed appointment last week when he appeared to threaten German companies doing business with Iran following the US withdrawal from the nuclear deal.
“US sanctions will target critical sectors of Iran’s economy. German companies doing business in Iran should wind down operations immediately,” he wrote on Twitter.
The tweet caused widespread anger in Germany. “Ric: my advice, after a long ambassadorial career: explain your own country’s policies, and lobby the host country,” Wolfgang Ischinger, a former German ambassador the US responded on Twitter.
“But never tell the host country what to do, if you want to stay out of trouble. Germans are eager to listen, but they will resent instructions.”