May attacks Trump’s claim that UK police had bomber in sights
THE British prime minister rounded on Donald Trump yesterday after he claimed the Parsons Green bomber had been under surveillance by Britain’s security services.
In an extraordinary breach of diplomatic protocol, the US president took to social media within hours of the Underground attack to claim the suspect was ‘in the sights of Scotland Yard’.
‘Another attack in London by a loser terrorist,’ he wrote on Twitter. ‘These are sick and demented people who were in the sights of Scotland Yard. Must be proactive!’
His comments drew a swift rebuke from Theresa May, who said: ‘I never think it’s helpful for anybody to speculate on what is an ongoing investigation.’ She later challenged the president in person when he called her to discuss the case.
A Scotland Yard spokesman also criticised Mr Trump, saying: ‘The comments are unhelpful and pure speculation. If anyone has got any evidence or information, please contact the anti-terrorism hotline.’
Mr Trump appeared unconcerned about his diplomatic slip. Asked about the terror attack by reporters outside the White House, he said: ‘It’s a terrible thing. It just keeps going and going, and we have to be very smart, we have to be very, very tough. Perhaps we are not nearly tough enough. It’s just an absolutely terrible thing. In fact, I’m going to call the prime minister right now. We have to be tougher and we have to be smarter.’ He told reporters that he had been briefed on the explosion, but did not provide further details.
His national security adviser HR McMaster suggested later that Mr Trump was speaking generally. Noting that law enforcement agencies have been working to combat terrorism for years, Mr McMaster said: ‘I think if there was a terrorist attack here, God forbid, that we would say that they were in the sights of the FBI.’
He added: ‘I think he means generally that this kind of activity is what we are trying to prevent.’ The controversy threatened to reopen the row between the UK and the US over the leaking of sensitive police information that led to the temporary suspension of security co-operation in the wake of the Manchester bombing.
Labour MP Stephen Doughty, a member of the home affairs select committee, said last night Mr Trump’s intervention ‘has the potential to not only undermine a vital relationship, but also to prejudice investigations into this and other incidents’.
Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Ed Davey said: ‘It is insulting to the victims of this attack that Donald Trump is already using it to try and further his divisive political agenda. Once again, Trump has shown he is not fit for the office of US President.’
London Mayor Sadiq Khan, who clashed with Mr Trump over his response to the London Bridge terror attack, would not be drawn on the president’s comments. ‘I’ve simply been too busy to look at my Twitter,’ he said,. ‘My priority is making sure that we do what we can to keep Londoners safe.’
A London City Hall source said: ‘He hopes people don’t speculate on things before we know the full facts. It’s clear what he thinks about that.’ In May, British police temporarily suspended intelligence sharing after a series of damaging US leaks about the investigation into the Manchester bombing. Images of the remnants of terrorist Salman Abedi’s backpack and a diagram showing where his victims died were handed to a US newspaper.
The British prime minister tackled Mr Trump over the issue at a Nato summit in Brussels, telling reporters later that the ties between Britain and the US were the ‘deepest defence and security partnership we have’, but warned it was ‘built on trust’.
She added: ‘Part of that trust is knowing that intelligence can be shared confidently and I will be making clear to President Trump that intelligence that is shared between law enforcement agencies must remain secure.’
Row: President Trump yesterday. Inset, Theresa May