In a new interview with CBS News, Trump names the European Union as one of America's biggest foes. The answer was striking given the E.U. comprises American allies, even as it clearly fits with Trump's efforts to shake up the Western alliance.
But in making that case, Trump sought to emphasize his personal affinity with Europe. So he said both his parents were born across the Atlantic Ocean.
“Maybe the thing that is most difficult — don't forget both my parents were born in E.U. sectors okay?” he said. “I mean, my mother was Scotland, my father was Germany. And — you know I love those countries.”
On Thursday, Trump appeared to say much the same thing at news conference at the end of the NATO summit in Brussels.
“I have great respect for Germany; my father is from Germany,” Trump said. “Both of my parents are from the E.U., despite the fact they don’t treat us well on trade.”
That could probably have been explained as Trump pointing to his father being the son of German immigrants, but then he went and told CBS that his dad was actually born in the E.U. (which, by the way, didn't exist back then, so the point is kind of moot anyway).
Trump of course, questioned for years whether President Barack Obama was born in the United States or abroad. Doing so helped bolster his political career among a certain segment of the far right. Now he's fudging the truth about his own father's birthplace, apparently to soften the blow of his anti-immigration rhetoric and tough stance toward Europe.
The records on Trump's ancestors have been combed through. Trump's grandfather Friedrich Trump immigrated to the United States in the late 19th century. As The Washington Post's Philip Bump detailed shortly after Trump's election:
Donald Trump's grandfather, Friedrich Trump, emigrated from Germany to the United States in 1885. He landed in New York City but eventually made his way west, settling in Seattle. In November 1891, he bought a restaurant at 208 Washington Street in the city for $600. (This history is from Gwenda Blair's “The Trumps,” a history of the family.) It was in Seattle that Friedrich became a citizen — on Oct. 27, 1892, just in time to register to vote in the 1892 presidential election, the first for which Washington was eligible to cast its ballots. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer listed Trump as a registered voter shortly before the November election.
Friedrich Trump did return to Germany and while there met his wife, Trump's grandmother, but he was expelled in 1905, apparently because he had emigrated illegally. The two of them returned to the United States when Elisabeth Trump was pregnant with Fred Trump, the president's father, according to The Post's reporting and Gwenda Blair's book, “The Trumps.”
So Trump could argue that his father was conceived in Europe, but that's not what he said. He instead rather bizarrely suggested his dad was an immigrant — twice.
We could always ask for the birth certificate, though, just to be sure.