I didn’t crit­i­cise PM. That is fake news, says US pres­i­dent

The Guardian - - NATIONAL -

right deal, she may choose to do what I sug­gested.”

He de­clined to elab­o­rate on what ad­vice he had of­fered May, say­ing it was “re­spect­fully sub­mit­ted” but then looked hor­ri­fied at a re­porter’s sug­ges­tion that he meant the UK could walk away from ne­go­ti­a­tions. “If she walks away, that means she’s stuck. You can’t walk away, but you can do other things,” he said.

The US pres­i­dent also re­vealed that he had apol­o­gised to May for the Sun ar­ti­cle when he met her over break­fast and that she had told him “don’t worry, it’s only the press” – a rev­e­la­tion of a pri­vate con­ver­sa­tion that drew a gri­mace from the prime min­is­ter.

Trump lav­ished praise on his host af­ter spend­ing a day at Sand­hurst and lunch­ing with May, be­fore meet­ing the Queen for tea at Wind­sor Cas­tle, as tens of thou­sands protested against his visit in Lon­don, Belfast, Glas­gow and Manch­ester. He then left for his Turn­berry golf re­sort in Ayr­shire for the week­end.

He said that the US-UK re­la­tion­ship was “the high­est level of spe­cial” and that May was “an in­cred­i­ble woman right here do­ing a fan­tas­tic job”.

Trump spoke warmly about the re­cep­tion he re­ceived at Blen­heim Palace on Thurs­day night with his wife, Me­la­nia, say­ing he “felt sorry for oth­ers on the ta­ble” be­cause he and May were in such deep con­ver­sa­tion. “We prob­a­bly never de­vel­oped a bet­ter re­la­tion­ship than last night,” he said.

Trump said the in­ter­view in the Sun had omit­ted his praise of May. “It’s called fake news and we solve a lot of prob­lems with the good old record­ing in­stru­ment,” he said, though he later ad­mit­ted he had in­deed made the com­ments. The Sun has pub­lished its own au­dio record­ing. A spokesman for the pa­per said it stood by its re­port­ing and that Trump had es­sen­tially re­tracted his orig­i­nal charge, adding: “To say the pres­i­dent called us ‘fake news’ with any se­ri­ous in­tent is, well ... fake news.” Down­ing Street had hinted in ad­vance they were ex­pect­ing a more emol­lient tone from the pres­i­dent at the press con­fer­ence.

Trump said he now un­der­stood that May’s Brexit plan would not make a trade deal with the US im­pos­si­ble and sug­gested he had un­der­es­ti­mated May’s ne­go­ti­at­ing skills.

“I don’t know what you’re go­ing to do, but what­ever you do is OK with us. Just make sure you can trade with us, that’s all that mat­ters,” he said to May. “I read re­ports where that won’t be pos­si­ble, but I be­lieve af­ter speak­ing with the prime min­is­ter’s peo­ple and rep­re­sen­ta­tives and trade ex­perts it will ab­so­lutely be pos­si­ble.”

May also sought to un­der­line the ben­e­fits of the Che­quers deal, as MPs in West­min­ster also voiced con­cern that it would pro­hibit new com­pre­hen­sive trade deals. “There will be no limit to the pos­si­bil­ity of us do­ing trade deals around the rest of the world once we leave the Euro­pean Union on the ba­sis of the agree­ment that was made here at Che­quers and that I’ve put for­ward to the Euro­pean Union,” she said.

Trump’s sug­ges­tion that Boris John­son, who re­cently re­signed as for­eign sec­re­tary, would make a good prime min­is­ter, was re­peated as May stood be­side him, stony-faced.

Cracks also emerged as the pres­i­dent re­peat­edly made in­flam­ma­tory claims that im­mi­gra­tion in Europe had caused ter­ror­ism and was erod­ing cul­ture, an as­ser­tion May made some at­tempt to counter. He said: “I think it’s been very bad for Europe. You see the same ter­ror at­tacks that I do. I know it’s not nec­es­sar­ily po­lit­i­cally cor­rect to say that, but I’ll say it, and I’ll say it loud. I think they’d bet­ter watch them­selves be­cause they’re chang­ing a lot of things.”

Trump is set to meet the Rus­sian pres­i­dent, Vladimir Putin, in Helsinki on Mon­day.

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