On Eve Of State Visit, Trump Attacks Royal Family Member, Intereferes In British Politics
Hours before departing the United States for a pomp and circumstance filled State Visit to the United Kingdom, President Trump sticks his foot in his mouth.
Just hours before he is scheduled to depart for a State Visit to the United Kingdom that will include dinner with Queen Elizabeth II, President Trump is insulting the wife of the Queen’s grandson and interfering in British politics, which is already in turmoil thanks to Brexit:
President Donald Trump set the stage for his upcoming visit to the United Kingdom, Ireland and France next week during a wide-ranging interview with the British newspaper The Sun, weighing in on everything from outgoing UK Prime Minister Theresa May’s handling of Brexit to the contenders vying to replace her to Meghan Markle’s dislike of his politics.
May will formally step down as Conservative Party leader after Trump visits on June 7.
Trump, during his Oval Office interview with the Sun published Friday, criticized May’s efforts on Brexit, saying he thinks “the UK allowed the European Union to have all the cards.”
“I had mentioned to Theresa that you have got to build up your ammunition. … I am sure that you could have built up a big advantage for your side and negotiated from strength,” he said.
“And it is very hard to play well when one side has all the advantage,” he continued. “They had nothing to lose. They didn’t give the European Union anything to lose.”
However, he acknowledged, “at the same time, I respect Theresa and she would certainly know the facts a lot better than I know them.”
During his interview with The Sun, Trump was confronted by comments made by Markle, the Duchess of Sussex, ahead of the 2016 election.
Speaking on “The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore” in 2016, Markle called Trump misogynistic and said his politics are divisive, saying she would move to Canada if he won the presidency.
Trump responded, “I didn’t know that she was nasty. I hope she is OK. …”
He seemed to bury the hatchet saying, “I am sure she will go excellently (as a royal). She will be very good.” Buckingham Palace had no comment on Trump’s interview regarding Markle.
The US President also previewed his meeting with Prince Charles in the UK, where talks of climate change are expected.
“Well, we will be talking, we will be talking. I can say we have among the cleanest climate in the world right now. Our air and water are doing very well,” Trump said.
However, despite Trump’s claim, the 20th annual State of the Air report, supported by the American Lung Association, found that pollution in the US has gotten measurably worse over the last three years.
Markle made these comments in 2016 apparently before it had been publicly announced that she and Prince Harry were dating and more than a year before their engagement was announced, which led to their wedding last year and the birth of their first child earlier this year. Prior to this, there was no record of Trump having addressed Markle’s comments, which were made when she was still a working actress with a full-time role on a TBS drama called Suits.
As we’ve seen in the past, This President is extremely sensitive to criticism such as that which Ms. Markle put forward three years ago during the height of the Presidential campaign and has been prone in the past to lash out against anyone who criticizes him whether or not they are a prominent public figure. We saw that most prominently in the wake of the Democratic National Convention when Trump attacked the parents of an American soldier killed in Iraq for the speech that the late soldier’s father gave at that convention. We saw it when he attacked Megyn Kelly when she asked him a question he didn’t like at the first debate of the Presidential campaign. And he’s done it repeatedly since becoming President. In that regard, I suppose, his decision to attack the Duchess of Sussex, while low-class, is just standard operating procedure for him.
For his part, Trump is denying that he ever called the Duchess of Sussex “nasty”:
However, as one Twitter user points out, that’s exactly what the transcript of the interview has him saying:
Obviously, hurling an insult at the wife of the Queen’s Grandson and the son and brother of future Kings who himself stands sixth in the line of succession to the British throne, is a bit of a diplomatic faux pas on the eve of a visit that will see him interacting with the Queen and other Royal Family members at several points during his visit. Markle herself will not be present for any of this because she remains on maternity leave from official functions, but her husband Prince Harry will be there, although I doubt Harry himself will mention anything about this to Trump’s face. Much like the several embarrassing moments that the President had when he met the Queen last year, though, it’s likely not to sit well with members of the British public for whom the Royal Family is important and bound to be something that will be talked about while the President is in the United Kingdom.
Trump didn’t stop at the insults hurled at a woman who can’t publicly defend herself because of the position she holds, though, he also proceeded to insert himself into the United Kingdom’s extremely unstable political climate on the side of two men that have spoken positively in the past. First of all, he once again had positive things to say about Boris Johnson, the former Foreign Secretary who is now a frontrunner to succeed Theresa May as leader of the Conservative Party and Prime Minister:
Donald Trump has backed Boris Johnson to be the next prime minister, in an interview with the Sun in which he also described Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, as “nasty”.
The president, speaking to the British newspaper before he visits the UK on Monday, expressed support for the former foreign secretary in his bid to replace Theresa May, saying: “I think Boris would do a very good job. I think he would be excellent.”
Trump’s endorsement has not been warmly welcomed. Mel Stride, the newly appointed Commons leader, said that while Trump was entitled to his opinion, he would not be picking the next prime minister of the UK, and put his own weight behind Michael Gove.
Stride told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “There will be lots of people out there, and the president of the United States is a very important person of course, who will be backing different candidates in this race … We’ve got a time of national crisis right now that we face as a country and as a parliament and we need somebody who is ready to lead. And Michael is ready to lead.”
Stride added: “The president of the United States of course is entitled to his opinion, but it’s not the case of him picking the next prime minister of our country. That process, as you know, will be one involving the parliamentary party and then the membership itself.”
Johnson has yet to respond to Trump’s comments, but the frontrunner in the Tory leadership race has not always been complimentary of the US president.
In 2015, when Trump claimed there were “no-go areas” in London where police feared for their lives because of a threat posed by Muslims, Johnson said it showed “quite stupefying ignorance that makes him frankly unfit to hold the office of president of the United States”.
On Johnson, Trump said: “I like him. I have always liked him. I don’t know that he is going to be chosen, but I think he is a very good guy, a very talented person. He has been very positive about me and our country.”
Trump said other candidates had approached him in a bid to secure his endorsement.
“I could help anybody if I endorse them. I mean, we’ve had endorsements where they have gone up for 40, 50 points at a shot.”
Trump criticised May’s handling of Brexit negotiations with the European Union, saying she “didn’t give the European Union anything to lose”. Trump’s first visit to the UK as president, last year, was marred by similar critical comments he made to the Sun about May’s handling of Brexit.
In addition to kind words for Johnson, Trump also spoke positively of Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage, who has supported Trump himself in the past:
Donald Trump has called on Britain to leave the European Union without a deal if Brussels refuses to meet its demands, as he urged the government to send Nigel Farage into the negotiations.
In his second extraordinary intervention into British politics ahead of this week’s state visit, the US president suggested the UK should “walk away” from talks and refuse to pay the £39bn divorce bill if its requests were not met.
Trump told the Sunday Times it was a “mistake” not to involve Farage in negotiations, saying the Brexit party leader had a “lot to offer” and was someone he liked a lot. Trump added: “He is a very smart person. They won’t bring him in. Think how well they would do if they did. They just haven’t figured that out yet.”
The president, who will arrive in London on Monday, said the British government had to “get the deal closed”. He said: “If they don’t get what they want, I would walk away … If you don’t get the deal you want, if you don’t get a fair deal, then you walk away.”
Trump said that if he was in charge, he would not pay the EU divorce bill. He also claimed it was not too late to “sue” the EU to give Britain greater “ammunition” in the talks. He told the paper: “If I were them I wouldn’t pay $50bn. That is me. I would not pay, that is a tremendous number.”
Defying diplomatic norms for the second time in as many days after telling the Sun he backed Boris Johnson to become the next prime minister, Trump also said he would have “to know” Jeremy Corbyn before authorising sharing highly sensitive US intelligence. He also urged the Labour leader to “get along with the US” if he wanted Britain to continue to benefit from US military and intelligence support, the paper reported.
His intervention comes as a dozen MPs battle it out to replace Theresa May as Conservative leader, with several candidates pledging they would be
As The Washington Post notes, Trump’s remarks come at a particularly sensitive time in British domestic politics:
If Brexit — the most agonizing, paralyzing political crisis suffered by America’s closest ally in decades — is a gas can, President Trump may be a match.
Trump’s long-delayed state visit to Britain collides with the nadir, at least so far, of Britain’s long and tortuous withdrawal from the European Union. Because Trump is an eager cheerleader for Britain’s exit — with his own theories about how it should be done — it could complicate matters during the visit that begins Monday with lots of royal pomp and circumstance.
Add that Trump is a past critic of Brexit casualty Prime Minister Theresa May, scalped by her ruling Conservatives but still on the job for the duration of this trip. And he is chummy with Brexit frontmen Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson, the front-runner to be the next prime minister. Neither is on Trump’s public schedule, but they may turn up somewhere.
The expectation in Britain is that Trump won’t be able to help himself from lobbing a grenade or two into the country’s delicate political moment.
“He’ll say dreadful things about Brexit that will upset at least half the British population,” said Adam Thomson, a former British ambassador to NATO.
But Thomson said Trump may find that any intervention has the opposite impact of what he hopes, because he is so deeply unpopular in Britain.
“An endorsement of Boris Johnson will hurt, not help, Boris,” said Thomson, who is now director of the London-based European Leadership Network. “Praise for a no-deal Brexit will hurt, not help, no-deal Brexiteers.”
In an ordinary world, of course, an American President would know better than to intervene in the politics of not only another nation, but a nation that happens to be our most important and among our most loyal allies. Of course, we are not living in a normal world and Donald Trump is not a normal President. He demonstrated the same affinity for intervening in British politics during his working visit last year that he’s demonstrating now. It’s boorish, improper, and defies diplomatic protocol and propriety. But, as with his comments about the Duchess of Sussex, it’s standard Trump and it makes me think that his upcoming State Visit will not be without controversy.
Of course, at the same time that Trump is exchanging toasts with the Queen, there will be thousands of British citizens in the streets protesting against him:
Organisers of the protests on Tuesday say they will register their anger both against Trump and his wider views, including those on Brexit, which the US president has made clear he supports. Alena Ivanova, a campaign organiser for Another Europe is Possible, said: “Tuesday’s protests aren’t just about Trump, they’re about Trumpism – a politics of racism and bigotry. Trump is part of a global nationalist surge, and Brexit and its cheerleaders are the British franchise of it. Like Trump, Brexit is a threat to our basic rights and freedoms, and promises a future of division, despair and rightwing economics.”
At least 250,000 people are expected to turn out in central London at 11am, on a route between Trafalgar Square and Parliament Square, when Trump meets Theresa May in Downing Street.
Organisers of the rally claim that US officials have pressured the Metropolitan police to impose an unprecedented “exclusion zone” around Trump’s route to keep him at a distance from the public.
One plan is for a “cage” or “pen” to hold demonstrators on Whitehall about 70 metres from Downing Street to keep them out of earshot during Trump’s meeting with May.
“They get to choose who goes in and who goes out , which is a totally ridiculous proposition on our right to protest,” said Asad Rehman of the Stop Trump Coalition.
The giant “Trump baby” blimp is expected to be deployed in Trafalgar Square, but only if the fundraising page for charities “against the politics of hate and division” reaches £30,000, organisers say.
It should be a fun couple days in the U.K.