Donald Trump boasted about being told that there was “only one other political leader who ever got crowds as big as mine”, apparently misunderstanding that he was being compared to Adolf Hitler, a new book has claimed.
The claims come in a new book written by ABC News’ chief Washington correspondent Jonathan Karl, titled Tired of Winning: Donald Trump and the end of the Grand Old Party.
Karl writes that a Republican member of Congress "close to Donald Trump" relayed the interaction to him, as told by the former president.
"One prominent member of Congress — a Trump ally — told me that the president, on two separate occasions, claimed Merkel had complimented him on the large crowds he attracted when he spoke,” according to the book.
“’She told me that she was amazed at the size of the crowds that came to see me speak,’ Trump told the Republican Congressman.”
“‘In fact, she told me that there was only one other political leader who ever got crowds as big as mine’.”
Karl writes that the congressman had been left wondering whether Mr Trump understood that Ms Merkel was apparently alluding to Hitler. “’And I’m thinking,’ he told me while recounting his interaction with Trump, ‘you know who she’s talking about, right?’" the book states.
The journalist described the member as "very prominent" and "absolutely blown away by this," adding “Which would be more unsettling: that he didn’t or that he did?”
Karl also suggests that the ally of Mr Trump felt that the former president had enjoyed the comparison to the German dictator, “at least the aspect of him attracting all those huge crowds."
But an aide to the Trump campaign was quick to deny the claims that Mr Trump had boasted about the remarks made by Ms Merkel, and said that Karl was “disgraceful and talentless.”
“This filth either belongs in the discount bargain bin in the fiction section of the bookstore or should be repurposed as toilet paper,” the spokesperson told The Daily Beast.
It comes after Mr Trump recently drew ire from historians following a Veterans Day speech – which also prompted to comparisons to dictators such as Hitler.
In the speech the former president referred to his political adversaries as “vermin” and argued that his domestic opponents are more of a threat to the US than the likes of China, Russia and North Korea.
Speaking in Claremont, New Hampshire, he told the crowd in his usual grievance-laden parlance: “We pledge to you that we will root out the communists, Marxists, fascists and the radical left thugs that live like vermin within the confines of our country that lie and steal and cheat on elections.”
Mr Trump’s use of the word “vermin” was criticised by historians speaking to The Washington Post.
A senior research scholar at the School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University, Timothy Naftali, told the paper that “the language is the language that dictators use to instil fear” and that “when you dehumanize an opponent, you strip them of their constitutional rights to participate securely in a democracy because you’re saying they’re not human. That’s what dictators do”.
The outlet reported that prospect of him returning to the White House has become an important topic of discussion in private conversations, with some calling it “terrifying”, The New York Times reported.