Last updated: 2:58 p.m. British Summer Time / 9:58 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time
Donald Trump’s U.K. visit was never going to be smooth, given that the American president is reviled by many Britons, including tens of thousands who plan to take to the streets in protest, but he ensured that Friday would be a day of high tension by attacking his host, Prime Minister Theresa May, in comments published as he dined with her Thursday night. The Intercept will be providing updates here on the progress of Trump’s visit/tantrum as it unfolds throughout the day on Friday.
May Is Mocked for Holding Trump’s Hand on Stairs Again
Trump also said he apologized to May when he met her this morning for the negative comments about her featured in The Sun, complaining that his subsequent praise for her was omitted (it was not), distorting the tone of the exchange.
Rare: Trump says he came in and said “I want to apologize to you” to May this morning. “Don’t worry, it’s only the press,” she responded.
— Annie Karni (@anniekarni) July 13, 2018
Tom Newton Dunn, the political editor of The Sun who conducted the interview and is present at the news conference, confirms that the paper did print his praise as well as his criticism.
The Sun editor also shares a photograph of May holding Trump’s hand as the two descended steps to the news conference outside Chequers, her country retreat.
May has been vilified by Trump’s detractors in Britain for holding the president’s hand when she visited the White House in January 2017 to invite him to visit the U.K. She reportedly explained that Trump confessed to a fear of steps and asked to hold her hand.
As Trump speaks, British television is showing his remarks in split-screen, with images of tens of thousands of protesters gathering in central London.
Trump Repeats False Claim He Visited U.K. Day Before Brexit Vote
Remarkably, Trump just repeated the false claim he made to The Sun, that he predicted the outcome of the Brexit referendum during a visit to his Scottish golf course “the day before” the vote on June 23, 2016. In fact, as his own Twitter feed proves, his visit came the day after the referendum, when the result was known.
Just arrived in Scotland. Place is going wild over the vote. They took their country back, just like we will take America back. No games!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 24, 2016
Bizarre. @realDonaldTrump says he came to Turnberry the day before Brexit and he told everyone that he thought Brexit would happen. And that he predicted correctly what would happen the next day. Umm. Not true. He came the day after Brexit. I was there. June 24 pic.twitter.com/bVRxpMJTKY
— Jon Sopel (@BBCJonSopel) July 13, 2018
“I Didn’t Criticize the Prime Minister” Trump Claims, Despite Audio of Him Criticizing the Prime Minister
At a joint news conference with May, Trump denies that he criticized the prime minister in his interview with Rupert Murdoch’s newspaper, The Sun, which posted audio of him criticizing the prime minister. Trump dismisses the report based on his interview as “fake news,” and claims to have a complete recording of the conversation which will prove him right.
Trump goes on to say that he did indeed say that May’s rival, Boris Johnson, “would be a great prime minister,” but claims he was set up by The Sun, which prompted him to say it.
The president goes on to admit that he did give May “a suggestion” about how to negotiate with the European Union that she ignored, but he would never presume to give her “advice.” In the audio posted by The Sun, Trump can be heard saying: “I actually told Theresa May how to do it but she didn’t agree, she didn’t listen to me. She wanted to go a different route. I would actually say that she probably went the opposite way.”
Protesters Gather Across U.K. as Cartoon Blimp of Baby Trump Rises
As protesters assembled in central London and across the United Kingdom to protest Trump’s visit and policies, a giant inflatable cartoon blimp of the president as an angry, phone-wielding baby took to the sky outside the British Parliament in Westminster.
Trump Trashes May’s Brexit Plan and Rants About Immigration to Tabloid
When the British prime minister welcomed Trump in a grand ceremony at Blenheim Palace on Thursday night, she had no idea that he had just given an interview attacking her to The Sun, Rupert Murdoch’s tabloid newspaper, which is the closest equivalent to Fox News in the U.K.
Here’s the cover of The Sun that’s being released while Trump is still at a gala dinner Theresa May threw in honor of his 1st UK visit as president: pic.twitter.com/yhMLPPy4ej
— Jeremy Diamond (@JDiamond1) July 12, 2018
Before the gala dinner was over, however, May was reportedly briefed on Trump’s comments, which were soon posted online with audio. In the interview, Trump suggested that May’s plan to remain closely aligned to the European Union after Britain’s exit from the bloc “will probably kill the deal” she hoped to strike with the United States for free trade.
The president also criticized May for ignoring his negotiating advice — “I told her how to do it,” Trump said, “she didn’t listen to me” — and accused her of betraying British voters, saying: “The deal she is striking is a much different deal than the one the people voted on. It was not the deal that was in the referendum.”
He went on to suggest that May’s political rival, Boris Johnson, who resigned as foreign minister this week and could try to topple her, “would be a great Prime Minister.”
Asked on Friday at the start of talks with May if he regretted his remarks, Trump rolled his eyes and pointed at the reporter with derision while shaking his head at his aides, including John Bolton, his combative national security adviser.
Trump’s effort to undermine the more moderate May comes immediately after his attacks on Germany at the NATO summit, and what looks like a concerted effort to aid the far-right there in unseating Chancellor Angela Merkel over her openness to immigrants.
The president also returned to an old favorite, attacking London Mayor Sadiq Khan as soft of terrorism. David Lammy, who represents the opposition Labour party in parliament, suggested that Trump’s motivation was clear: Khan is Muslim.
I will call it like it is. The real reason Trump blames my friend @SadiqKhan for the terror attacks last year is simple. He hates that London chose a Muslim mayor. The President is racist. He does not deserve to meet our Queen today #StopTrump
— David Lammy (@DavidLammy) July 13, 2018
In other ways, the interview was like a greatest hits collection, with Trump claiming that immigration posed an existential threat to European culture — “Allowing the immigration to take place in Europe is a shame. I think it changed the fabric of Europe and, unless you act very quickly, it’s never going to be what it was and I don’t mean that in a positive way.” — and telling an easily provable lie about having “predicted Brexit.”
Recalling a visit to one of his Scottish golf resorts in 2016, Trump said: “I was cutting a ribbon for the opening of Turnberry — you know they totally did a whole renovation, it is beautiful — the day before the Brexit vote. I said, ‘Brexit will happen.’ The vote is going to go positive, because people don’t want to be faced with the horrible immigration problems that they are being faced with in other countries…. I said Brexit will happen, and I was right.”
Trump, in fact, visited Scotland for the Turnberry ribbon cutting the day after the Brexit referendum, when the result was already known, as The Intercept reported way back in the mists of two years ago.
In his remarks that day, Trump also connected the Brexit vote to inflated fears over immigration, claiming that Britain’s membership in the European Union meant that British voters were “angry over people coming into the country and taking over.”