Trump says he admires Germany's Merkel despite bashing her often

Donald Trump, who has been on both sides of many issues during his run for president, can add another one to that list: the performance of German chancellor Angela Merkel, someone he has bashed repeatedly over the last year.

In an interview with New England Cable News, Trump was asked to name a world leader he admired, a question that flummoxed Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson.

“Well I think Merkel is a really great world leader but I was very disappointed that when she, this move with the whole thing on immigration,” Trump said. “I think it’s a big problem and really, you know, to look at what she’s done in the last year and a half. I was always a Merkel person. I thought really fantastic, but I think she made a very tragic mistake, a year and a half ago.”

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Trump has harshly criticized Merkel’s willingness to accept Syrian refugees.

Last December, Trump attacked Merkel when she was chosen as Time Magazine’s 2015 person of the year. “‪I told you @TIME Magazine would never pick me as person of the year despite being the big favorite They picked person who is ruining Germany,” he tweeted at the time. 

Recently, Trump has used Merkel as a pathway to attack his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton. In a policy speech in August, Trump said that Clinton wanted to be “America’s Angela Merkel” because Clinton wanted to increase the number of Syrian refugees accepted into the United States. Trump would repeat that line in subsequent rallies for weeks.

For example, at a rally in Charlotte, Trump said “[Clinton’s] plan would bring in roughly 620,000 refugees from all refugee-sending nations in her first term alone, on top of all other immigration. Think of that. Think of that. What are we doing? Hillary Clinton is running to be America’s Angela Merkel, and we’ve seen how much crime and how many problems that’s caused the German people.”

In a February interview with Breitbart Radio’s Steve Bannon, who has since become a top Trump advisor, the GOP nominee said Merkel “turned out to be this catastrophic leader” who would be “out…if they don’t have a revolution.”

Thursday’s praise might actually be a return to how Trump originally felt about Merkel. In an August 2015 interview with Time Magazine, Trump called Merkel “fantastic,” “highly respected,” and “probably the greatest leader in the world today.”

The context was Trump criticizing the United States government for supporting Ukraine’s government in its fight against Russian separatists without asking more of Germany.