Prez lies about crit­i­cism

Trump de­nies he crit­i­cized Bri­tish PM af­ter mak­ing neg­a­tive re­marks to news­pa­per

The Recorder & Times (Brockville) - - WORLD NEWS - JILL COLVIN and JONATHAN LEMIRE

ELLESBOROUGH, Eng­land — In a fresh bout of diplo­matic whiplash, U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump de­nied Fri­day he had crit­i­cized Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May and de­clared the U.S.-U.K. re­la­tion­ship “the high­est level of spe­cial” — not long af­ter lob­bing thun­der­ous broad­sides against her.

Trump’s pomp-filled visit to the United King­dom has been over­shad­owed by wide­spread protests and an ex­plo­sive in­ter­view in Bri­tain’s The Sun in which he blasted May, his host, blamed Lon­don’s mayor for ter­ror at­tacks against the city and ar­gued that Europe was “los­ing its cul­ture” be­cause of im­mi­gra­tion.

“I didn’t crit­i­cize the prime min­is­ter. I have a lot of re­spect for the prime min­is­ter,” said Trump, who al­lowed that he did apol­o­gize for some of his com­ments. But he blamed his favourite scape­goat — the so-called “Fake Me­dia” — for skip­ping over his praise of May in a piece that pub­lished Thurs­day just as the prime min­ster played host at an opu­lent wel­come din­ner at a coun­try palace.

The pres­i­dent then urged re­porters to lis­ten to a full record­ing of the in­ter­view, which he said would give the full pic­ture.

May, for her part, praised the strength of the U.S.-U.K. bond. But in a gentle re­buke, said: “It is all of our re­spon­si­bil­ity to en­sure that trans-Atlantic unity en­dures.”

As for her re­la­tion­ship with Trump, she said: “We are friends.”

Trump was greeted by mas­sive protests across Bri­tain, in­clud­ing tens of thou­sands of demon­stra­tors who filled the streets of Lon­don along­side a gi­ant balloon depict­ing him as a cell-phone-tot­ing an­gry baby in a di­a­per.

In a fre­netic news con­fer­ence at Che­quers, May’s of­fi­cial coun­try house, an un­re­strained Trump blamed his pre­de­ces­sor, for­mer pres­i­dent Barack Obama, for Rus­sian ag­gres­sion in Crimea, placed fair trade at the cen­tre of Bri­tain’s ef­forts to leave the Euro­pean Union, de­fended his be­liefs that im­mi­gra­tion has dam­aged Europe and re­peat­edly jousted with TV cor­re­spon­dents’ whose cov­er­age he found crit­i­cal.

In­ter­viewed be­fore he left Brus­sels for the U.K, Trump ac­cused May of ru­in­ing what her coun­try stands to gain from its Brexit vote to leave the Euro­pean Union. He said her for­mer for­eign sec­re­tary, Boris John­son, would make an “ex­cel­lent” prime min­is­ter, speak­ing just days af­ter John­son re­signed his po­si­tion in protest over May’s Brexit plans.

Trump added that May’s “soft” blue­print for the U.K.’s fu­ture deal­ings with the EU would prob­a­bly “kill” any fu­ture trade deals with the U.S.

“If they do a deal like that, we would be deal­ing with the Euro­pean Union in­stead of deal­ing with the U.K., so it will prob­a­bly kill the deal,” Trump told the pa­per.

Trump, who has linked his own elec­tion to the June 2016 ref­er­en­dum in which a slim ma­jor­ity of Bri­tish vot­ers sup­ported leav­ing the EU, com­plained, “The deal she is strik­ing is a much different deal than the one the peo­ple voted on.”

He also told the tabloid that he’d shared advice with May dur­ing Bri­tain’s ne­go­ti­a­tions with the EU and she ig­nored it.

Tens of thou­sands of peo­ple gath­ered in Lon­don for a se­ries of demon­stra­tions against the pres­i­dent’s visit. Marchers gath­ered near BBC head­quar­ters in cen­tral Lon­don be­fore walk­ing through the cen­tre of the city to Par­lia­ment — where ear­lier the baby blimp hov­ered over­head.

Many pro­test­ers used hu­mour to con­vey their op­po­si­tion. One sign read “Trump wears poorly tai­lored suits,” while an­other pro­claimed: “Over­comb Brexit.” One man was sell­ing rolls of “Trump toi­let pa­per” em­bla­zoned with a pic­ture of the pres­i­dent. More protests are planned in Wind­sor, where the Trumps will meet the Queen, and in Scot­land, where Trump plans to spend the week­end at one of his golf courses.

“I guess when they put out blimps to make me feel un­wel­come, no rea­son for me to go to Lon­don,” he told The Sun, which is owned by his me­dia ally, Ru­pert Mur­doch, the owner of Fox News.

The in­ter­view was the lat­est breach of diplo­matic pro­to­col by Trump, whose pre­de­ces­sors tended to avoid crit­i­ciz­ing their for­eign hosts. Trump has been trav­el­ling by he­li­copter to avoid the protests in cen­tral Lon­don. Po­lice worked over­time, their days off can­celled.

Trump ac­knowl­edged feel­ing un­wel­come in the city, and blamed that in part on Mayor Sadiq Khan, who gave pro­test­ers per­mis­sion to fly the baby Trump balloon. Trump also blamed re­cent ter­ror­ist at­tacks there on Khan, who is Mus­lim. The pres­i­dent claimed Europe is “los­ing its cul­ture” be­cause of im­mi­gra­tion from the Mid­dle East and Africa.

“Al­low­ing the im­mi­gra­tion to take place in Europe is a sham,” he said. “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.”

Khan, whose grand­par­ents hailed from Pak­istan, re­sponded by ques­tion­ing why Trump re­peat­edly chose him to crit­i­cize.

“Paris, Nice, Brus­sels, Ber­lin. Cities in Amer­ica all suf­fered ter­ror at­tacks,” Khan told Bri­tish broad­caster Sky News. “And it’s for Pres­i­dent Trump to ex­plain why he sin­gled me as the mayor of Lon­don out and not the may­ors of other cities and lead­ers of other cities.”

TOLGA AK­MEN/GETTY IMAGES

Ac­tivists in­flate a gi­ant balloon depict­ing U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump as an or­ange baby dur­ing a protest of Trump’s visit to the U.K., in Lon­don’s Par­lia­ment Square on Fri­day.

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