Editor's Note: (This was excerpted from the July 10 edition of CNN's Meanwhile in America, the daily email about US politics for global readers. Click here to read past editions and subscribe)
(CNN) Angela Merkel may not scream down the phone at President Donald Trump -- but she knows how to insert a dagger.
Trump, as well as Brazil's Jair Bolsonaro and Russia's Vladimir Putin, must have felt his ears burning when the German Chancellor demolished their approaches to the coronavirus in a speech Thursday. "As we are experiencing firsthand, you cannot fight the pandemic with lies and disinformation any more than you can fight it with hate or incitement to hatred," Merkel said. "The limits of populism and denial of basic truths are being laid bare."
Merkel and Trump were destined to clash. A former scientist, she is cool, cautious, self-contained, fact-oriented and quiet despite her toughness. Trump is ... none of those things. Late in 2016, the outgoing US President, who Merkel sometimes referred to as "Liebe (dear) Barack," flew to Berlin on a mission -- to convince her to run for another term. Once Trump was in the Oval Office, Obama reasoned, Merkel would need to lead the liberal international order.
Ever since, she's been walking on eggshells with a new President who flouts many of the values that Merkel -- who grew up in Communist East Germany -- always saw as epitomized by America. One confrontation, in Canada, was captured in an instantly iconic photograph. And CNN's Carl Bernstein wrote recently that Trump has a habit of haranguing Merkel, even calling her "stupid" on the phone. She reportedly counters his rants with facts.
Merkel has not always lived up to her billing as the West's moral bulwark. As the EU's most powerful leader, she shares responsibility for the European project's wobbles while members battled Covid-19 behind closed borders. And Germany's complicated history and limited defense budgets -- which infuriate Trump -- mean it cannot fill the security vacuum left by the US.
But Merkel, who does not plan to run for a fifth term next year, can read the polls. And though she might never say so, she'd love to outlast Trump.
"I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn't lose voters," Trump claimed in 2016.
In a deliberate sign of the changing times, Manhattan's iconic Fifth Avenue has now been painted with the words "Black Lives Matter" -- directly in front of the '90s-era gold-tone entrance to Trump Tower.
Trump called on police not to let "this symbol of hate be affixed to New York's greatest street." But even the city's mayor, Democrat Bill de Blasio, picked up a paint roller with civil rights activist Rev. Al Sharpton on Thursday.
Sometimes you can win by losing, Trump has learned in two momentous Supreme Court rulings on attempts to subpoena his financial records.
By 7-2, the court dismissed Trump's claim that he was immune from investigation as President. The ruling vindicated New York prosecutors probing the President over an alleged hush money scheme.
"In our judicial system, 'the public has a right to every man's evidence,' " Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the majority opinion. "Since the earliest days of the Republic, 'every man' has included the President of the United States."
In a separate case, the court also ruled that Congress -- which wants financial records from Trump's bankers and accountants -- has the right to investigate a President. But by the same 7-2 divide, it held that such inquiries must be limited. Thus the justices found a solution that elegantly affirmed constitutional principles -- and spared their court from political crossfire.
Both cases will now return to lower courts for months of more litigation. Trump wasn't thrilled with the outcomes, which leave him with considerable legal and political exposure -- but they do ensure that prosecutors and House Democrats will not get their hands on his tax and financial records until after the election. Since one of the goals of his Supreme Court challenge was to kick the cases past November, the President's lawyers did their job.