Various news outlets described a stunt by US President Donald Trump, handing a physical bill to German Chancellor Angela Merkel for $300 billion. This Fox News article refers to original reporting here in the Times of London. It was also in the The Independent and this David Pakman video.

Importantly, this CNBC article says:

Michael Short, a White House spokesperson told CNBC that the report was "false."

According to this article, a German spokesperson* wrote tweeted a denial:

Die Berichte über eine solche Rechnung treffen nicht zu. Es gibt kein Schuldenkonto bei der NATO.


The reports about such a bill do not apply. There is no debt balance with NATO.

Whether or not Germany owes such a figure for NATO, did Trump hand such a document to Merkel?

* Steffen Seibert, Sprecher der Bundesregierung und Chef des Bundespresseamtes (BPA)

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    The incident is unanimously reported to have happend "during private talks". The best you could ask for is that "unnamed German minister" stepping forward and putting his name under that report. The statement itself -- that Trump said Germany would owe the Nato "huge sums" -- is also reported in German mainstream media and not questioned. So if you ask if Trump indeed handed a printed invoice to Merkel behind closed doors, you won't get a reliable source...
    – DevSolar
    Commented Mar 28, 2017 at 7:31
  • 3
    ...because if the meeting was private, there was no press present that could give pictures or an independent third-party report. (It should be noted that, while the statement is not questioned in German news reports, the validity of the claim is very much questioned.)
    – DevSolar
    Commented Mar 28, 2017 at 7:32
  • 2
    I suspect/speculate he may have handed her a sheet of paper outlining Trump administration estimates on how much extra Germany should pay to compensate for all the years it paid less than 2%, that an anonymous source informally called that an invoice, and that both administrations correctly state that there is no invoice.
    – gerrit
    Commented Mar 28, 2017 at 9:28
  • @gerrit - or it could have been a literal bill, obviously handed over as a joke, to break the ice. Commented Mar 28, 2017 at 16:57
  • The quality of the primary source (Times of London) is questionable; here is a german blog entry discussing the sources. It seems rather unlikely that Trump asked for UK pounds. Commented Mar 28, 2017 at 22:40

1 Answer 1


The German government denies that Merkel has been handed such a bill by Trump, but it is slightly vague about the point whether Trump and Merkel did actually discuss the topic of alleged German debts to NATO.

Here is the pertaining excerpt from the official transcript of the Regierungspressekonferenz, in which the German press secretary Steffen Seibert is asked about the incident.

Frage: Ich würde mit Blick auf die Berichterstattung am Wochenende gerne zu einer angeblichen Rechnung in Bezug auf mangelnde Ausgaben für Verteidigung, die der US-Präsident der Bundeskanzlerin überreicht haben soll, nachfragen: Herr Seibert, stimmt das so, existiert eine solche Rechnung? Da das Ganze unter Berufung auf deutsche Regierungskreise berichtet wurde: Wenn dem nicht so sein sollte, wie können Sie sich dann ein solches Missverständnis erklären?

The question asks whether the US president did indeed hand Merkel an invoice over the insufficient funding of defense. In the case that not happen, the asker wants to know how such a misunderstanding might have come to pass given that the news reports referred to official German sources for that event.

StS Seibert: Die Berichte vom Wochenende, die Sie da gerade zitieren, treffen nicht zu. Sie wissen aus der Pressekonferenz in Washington – darüber ist ja auch breit berichtet worden –, dass die Bundeskanzlerin und der US-Präsident auch über das Thema Verteidigungsausgaben gesprochen haben. Sie haben beide auch in der Pressekonferenz darüber berichtet. Die deutsche Position ist bekannt: Wir wollen entsprechend den Verabredungen im Bündnis unsere Bundeswehr weiter stärken und dafür auch weiterhin mehr Geld bereitstellen.

Seibert replies that the reports to which the question refers are not accurate. He confirms that Merkel and Trump discussed defense spending, and he reiterates that it is the German position that the Bundeswehr should see ongoing reinforcement in line with NATO agreements and that the government intends to continue to provide additional money to that goal.

Then follows the crucial part of Seibert's answer with regard to the alleged bill:

So etwas wie ein Schuldenkonto jedoch kennt die Nato gar nicht, und Berichte, wonach Präsident Trump der Bundeskanzlerin eine Art Rechnung über eine konkrete Milliardensumme vorgelegt hätte, treffen nicht zu.

Here's my attempt at a literal translation of this reply:

"Yet, NATO does not know anything like a debtor's account, and reports according to which president Trump handed the Federal Chancellor some kind of bill naming a concrete sum of billions are not true."

Zusatzfrage: Ist denn die deutsche Seite in Washington mit einer konkreten Summe konfrontiert worden?

The follow-up question asks whether the German delegation was confronted with a concrete sum in Washington, to which Seibert replies:

StS Seibert: Ich habe das doch gerade gesagt.

"That's what I just answered."

Zusatzfrage: Sie haben es gesagt in Bezug auf eine angebliche Rechnung gegenüber der Bundeskanzlerin. Es hätte ja sein können, dass das Thema an anderem Ort eine Rolle gespielt hätte.

A second follow-up question points out that Seibert answered with regard to an alleged bill that was passed to the Chancellor, but that the topic might still have been discussed in a different context.

StS Seibert: Ich habe dem jetzt nichts hinzuzufügen. Dieser Bericht trifft so nicht zu.

Seibert does not want to add anything to his statement and asserts that this report is not accurate as it stands.

  • 2
    After the part you cited, the questioner asked if the Trump administration mentioned the concrete sum in any other form - apart from a bill. Seibert doesn't answer but refers to a press conference. Do you have a link to that? I don't want to rule out that the London Times just made up the sum, but Seibert seemed a bit evasive and focused on the fact that no actual bill was presented, because NATO just doesn't work that way. But nobody thinks that Trump actually presented anything resembling an actual, formal NATO invoice, but instead that he calculated a concrete sum he thinks Germany owes.
    – tim
    Commented Mar 28, 2017 at 21:01
  • @tim: That would be the press conference jointly held by Trump and Merkel on March 18: bundesregierung.de/Content/DE/Mitschrift/Pressekonferenzen/2017/… The German transcript of Trump's statement only mentions that "a massive sum of money" that is owed by "many nations", and how "very unfair" that is.
    – Schmuddi
    Commented Mar 28, 2017 at 21:35

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