Of all the odd, counterfactual and conspiratorial claims President Trump has made over the past four years or so, this one may take the cake: He said Tuesday that his father was born in Germany, even though he wasn’t.
It is at least the third time he has said this.
“My father is German — was German,” Trump said. “Born in a very wonderful place in Germany, so I have a great feeling for Germany.”
This is not true. Fred Trump is of German descent, and his father was a German immigrant. But Fred Trump was born in New York. 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 was expelled from Germany in 1905, apparently because he had emigrated illegally. He and his wife, Elisabeth Trump, returned to the United States when she was pregnant with Fred Trump, the president’s father, according to The Post’s reporting and Blair’s book. So about the only way you could say Trump’s father has claim to the German homeland is that he may have been conceived there.
Trump was perhaps using the claim to express solidarity with the European he was sitting next to Tuesday at the White House, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. The previous two times Trump made this bizarre claim were also while talking about U.S.-European relations.
In July, Trump named the European Union as one of the United States’ biggest foes. “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.”
Trump’s mom was, in fact, a Scottish immigrant.
And just days before, he made the same claim at a 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.”
It would be easy to make the same jokes I made last time about how we really need to get to the heart of this and find Fred Trump’s birth certificate, but I’m not going to do that. Let’s just say Trump’s grasp of a key immigration issue seems to be lacking in this case.