July 13, 2018

Trump double talks about British prime minister

LA Times - President Trump sought  to tamp down tensions with British Prime Minister Theresa May, saying the leaders had a "very, very strong" relationship — hours after publication of an interview in which he questioned May's handling of "Brexit," praised her deposed foe Boris Johnson and threatened to upend the trade relationship between the two countries.

The bombshell interview with the Sun, U.S. media mogul Rupert Murdoch's British tabloid, landed as Trump was receiving a grand welcome from May, including a black-tie gala and an elaborate outdoor ceremony at Blenheim Palace, the birthplace of Winston Churchill.

The two displayed warm chemistry at the dinner, U.S. and European officials said, with Trump praising May, and the publication of the interview had the potential to disrupt the carefully choreographed visit.

"May has wrecked Brexit … US deal is off!" the Sun's front page screamed in capital letters.

By Friday morning, Trump's comments were dominating British news coverage of the visit and causing additional headaches for the politically vulnerable May, whose approval ratings are low and whose country is struggling with its scheduled exit from the European Union. The White House issued a statement — partially written by Trump — that praised May as "terrific."

"We talked for an hour and a half, and it was really something," Trump said at Chequers, the British prime minister's country home, upon his arrival Friday morning.

The president then lauded May for her work on NATO, a day after the conclusion of a two-day summit in Brussels that he jolted with dramatic reversals, excoriations of allies and demands for more allied defense spending.

While appearing with May, Trump made a mocking gesture to a reporter who screamed a question about his comments in the Sun — and did not answer.

At Chequers on Friday morning, May did not mention Trump's interview, instead saying the two leaders would have a conversation on trade, security and NATO spending, among other issues.

The two were holding a joint meeting and a bilateral news conference Friday afternoon — when both leaders were likely to face questions over Trump's comments.

In the Sun interview, Trump berated May for her Brexit strategy, warned that her plan could jeopardize any trade deal between their two countries and touted Johnson, her political rival who resigned as British foreign secretary earlier this week. Trump praised Johnson as a "great" potential prime minister.

If May follows through on her Brexit plan, "that would probably end a major trade relationship with the United States," Trump told the Sun in the 28-minute interview, which was published at 11 p.m. here on Thursday night. He added: "I would have done it much differently. I actually told Theresa May how to do it, but she didn't agree, she didn't listen to me."

In the interview, Trump chastised another nemesis — London Mayor Sadiq Khan — accusing him of having done a "very bad job on terrorism." Trump also criticized the influx of migrants into Europe, saying it "changed the fabric" of the continent.

The rhetoric in the interview was stark even by the standards of Trump, who had already provoked an international uproar at the NATO summit in Brussels. He accused Germany, a frequent target of his ire, of being "totally controlled" by Russia and prompted an emergency session of the alliance with his demands for increased defense spending.

British official

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