Prez strikes some­what con­cil­ia­tory tone to­ward Brit PM

Boston Herald - - NEWS -

ELLESBOROUGH, Eng­land — Pres­i­dent Trump sought to re­pair his newly dam­aged re­la­tion­ship with British Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May yes­ter­day, ef­fu­sively prais­ing her at a joint news con­fer­ence af­ter an ex­plo­sive tabloid in­ter­view in which he crit­i­cized her, praised her ri­val and warned of an end to free trade be­tween their coun­tries.

The pres­i­dent did strongly re­it­er­ate one con­tro­ver­sial con­tention from his in­ter­view Thurs­day with the Sun, a British tabloid owned by Trump sup­porter Ru­pert Mur­doch: that im­mi­grants were ru­in­ing Europe’s cul­ture. May, in re­sponse, coun­tered with the sort of de­fense of im­mi­grants that used to be a hall­mark of Amer­i­can lead­ers.

Trump, echo­ing the lan­guage of white na­tion­al­ists, said of im­mi­gra­tion: “I do not think it’s good for Europe. And I don’t think it’s good for our coun­try.

“I know it’s po­lit­i­cally not nec­es­sar­ily cor­rect to say that, but I’ll say it and I’ll say it loud: I think they bet­ter watch them­selves be­cause you are chang­ing cul­ture, you are chang­ing a lot of things. You’re chang­ing se­cu­rity,” the pres­i­dent said as May stood by, plainly dis­com­fited.

The prime min­is­ter in turn cited Bri­tain’s “proud his­tory of wel­com­ing peo­ple who are flee­ing per­se­cu­tion” and said of im­mi­grants, “We’ve seen them con­tribut­ing to our so­ci­ety and our econ­omy.”

Trump, other­wise do­ing his best at dam­age con­trol in the joint news con­fer­ence, blamed the me­dia for fo­cus­ing on dis­agree­ments and said the Sun had not pub­lished all of his pos­i­tive com­ments about May. “I didn’t crit­i­cize the prime min­is­ter,” he said, though the news­pa­per posted an au­dio record­ing.

He in­sisted the United States and Bri­tain have “the high­est level of spe­cial” re­la­tion­ship. “Am I al­lowed to go higher than that? I don’t know,” he said, steal­ing a friendly glance at May.

Their news con­fer­ence, and pri­vate dis­cus­sions on eco­nomic and se­cu­rity is­sues, were held at Che­quers, the sprawl­ing 16th­cen­tury manor that is the prime min­is­ter’s coun­try re­treat and the birth­place of Win­ston Churchill. Its lo­ca­tion in the wooded coun­try­side about 40 miles from Lon­don kept Trump far from protests that filled the cap­i­tal’s streets for a sec­ond day — a rare demon­stra­tion against an Amer­i­can pres­i­dent. Trump and first lady Me­la­nia later had tea with Queen El­iz­a­beth II at Wind­sor Cas­tle, also out­side Lon­don.

Trump’s first trip to Bri­tain had been re­peat­edly de­layed and was down­graded from a for­mal state visit, in part be­cause of ten­sions he’d pro­voked in the past and the threat of mass protests. He gave the in­ter­view that roiled his ar­rival on Thurs­day be­fore leav­ing Brus­sels, where he’d up­ended the an­nual NATO sum­mit with harsh crit­i­cisms of al­lies, es­pe­cially Ger­many and its chan­cel­lor, An­gela Merkel.

In the tabloid in­ter­view, Trump also trashed Lon­don Mayor Sadiq Khan, a Mus­lim who has crit­i­cized the pres­i­dent, as be­ing soft on crime and ter­ror­ists, and lamented the protests against him. But it was his un­abashed in­ter­ven­tion into an ally’s do­mes­tic pol­i­tics that so vi­o­lated prece­dent and the tra­di­tional def­er­ence shown by pres­i­dents to their coun­ter­parts abroad.

AP PHO­TOS

NOT SO JOLLY ENG­LAND: Pres­i­dent Trump, top left, walks with Queen El­iz­a­beth II at Wind­sor Cas­tle yes­ter­day, while protesters hit the streets of Lon­don, above, bring­ing with them a bal­loon de­pic­tion of Trump as a baby.

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