Monday, 30 Nov 2020

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas chides Trump, urges all votes be counted

BERLIN (BLOOMBERG) – Germany called on US President Donald Trump to play by the rules and accept the result of the United States presidential election, in a rare diplomatic intervention by a key Western ally.

Mr Trump’s appeal to end the counting of ballots “doesn’t comply with the democratic culture” of the US, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas told public broadcaster ARD on Thursday (Nov 5).

“It’s easy to be a winner, but sometimes it’s quite hard to be a loser,” Mr Maas said. “It’s important that in the end, the result will be accepted by everybody.”

In a separate interview with ZDF television on Friday, Mr Maas said it is “perhaps a bit scary” that people are no longer surprised by Mr Trump’s behaviour, “although one really doesn’t want to believe it”.

“One thing is very certain: that the next American president has a very important and outstanding task, that is to end the polarisation in the country and bring society together again,” Mr Maas said. “That’s what the next president is needed for.”

Until now, European leaders have chosen to keep quiet on the unfolding political drama in the US, and await a final resolution.

Germany has a track record of keeping a low profile when it comes to foreign policy and avoiding controversial positions.

In this case, it is taking a clear stand in trying to steer Mr Trump to accept whatever the result is when it comes. With Democratic rival Joe Biden ahead in key states, Mr Trump has suggested that the ballot represents a “major fraud on our nation” and threatened to take the results to the Supreme Court.

Lawsuits to challenge the vote count, however, have gained little traction, with at least two being thrown out in Georgia and Michigan.

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“This is first of all the Trump family and his close campaign team,” Mr Maas, a member of the Social Democrats, the junior partner in Chancellor Angela Merkel’s ruling coalition, told ARD.

“I can imagine that there are also a number of proud Republicans who follow with growing suspicion what is happening there.”

Since Mr Trump came to power, relations with Germany have deteriorated.

In 2017, he refused to shake hands with Dr Merkel on camera during his first White House meeting with the German leader.

As recently as August, Mr Trump ordered the withdrawal of a portion of US troops from Germany amid reports that he was angered by Dr Merkel’s refusal to participate in the Group of Seven summit in the US during the pandemic.

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In other flash points, Mr Trump has threatened to impose tariffs on German cars and demanded Germany spend more on its defence as part of a Nato pledge.

He enforced sanctions on the Nord Stream 2 pipeline project with Russia and tried to force Dr Merkel to exclude the Chinese network provider Huawei Technologies from the country’s 5G network.

“I wish most of all for better relations between the US and Europe, and Germany,” Mr Maas told ZDF. “With all the conflicts, crises and wars in the world, we need the US and Europe to work hand in hand.”

Mr John Kornblum, a former US ambassador to Germany, said Mr Trump’s accusations of election fraud damage America’s credibility.

“It’s not good when your own president is questioning the system which he is so to speak not responsible for but which he is charged with defending,” Mr Kornblum, who served under Democrat president Bill Clinton, said in an interview with Bloomberg TV.

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