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Protests, diplomatic backflips mark Trump’s visit to England

  • U.S. President Donald Trump, left, with British Prime Minister Theresa May, right, during their meeting at Chequers, in Buckinghamshire, England, Friday, July 13, 2018. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais) Pablo Martinez Monsivais

  • A 20-foot high cartoon baby blimp of U.S. President Donald Trump is flown as a protest against his visit, in Parliament Square in London, England, Friday. ap photo

  • U.S. President Donald Trump with British Prime Minister Theresa May pose for photographers at Chequers, in Buckinghamshire, England, Friday, July 13, 2018. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais) Pablo Martinez Monsivais

  • U.S. President Donald Trump leaves Winfield House, residence of the US Ambassador Woody Johnson, left, before boarding Marine One helicopter for the flight to Chequers, in Buckinghamshire, Friday, July 13, 2018 in London. Trump is in London, where his day will start with a viewing of a military demonstration before he heads to meetings with British Prime Minister Theresa May at Chequers, May's county house. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais) Pablo Martinez Monsivais

  • From left, first lady Melania Trump, President Donald Trump, British Prime Minister Theresa May, and her husband Philip May, watch the arrival ceremony at Blenheim Palace, in Blenheim, England, Thursday, July 12, 2018. (Will Oliver/Photo via AP) WILL OLIVER

  • From left, first lady Melania Trump, President Donald Trump, British Prime Minister Theresa May, and her husband Philip May, watch the arrival ceremony at Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire, Thursday, July 12, 2018. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais) Pablo Martinez Monsivais

  • A helicopter leaves the grounds of the US ambassador residence in Regent's Park, London, while demonstrators protest against the visit of US President Donald Trump Thursday July 12, 2018. (Gareth Fuller/PA via AP) Gareth Fuller

  • First lady Melania Trump, left, walks past President Donald Trump, British Prime Minister Theresa May, and May's husband Philip May, during the arrival ceremony at Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire, Thursday, July 12, 2018. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais) Pablo Martinez Monsivais

  • From left, first lady Melania Trump, President Donald Trump, British Prime Minister Theresa May, and her husband Philip May, stand during the arrival ceremony at Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire, Thursday, July 12, 2018. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais) Pablo Martinez Monsivais

  • The cavalcade of cars as U.S. President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump leave Prestwick Airport, in Ayrshire, Scotland, Friday, July 13, 2018. (AP Photo/Peter Morrison) Peter Morrison



Associated Press
Friday, July 13, 2018

LONDON — President Donald Trump closed out a turbulent 30-hour visit to England on Friday that featured massive protests, moments of pageantry and startling diplomatic backflips as the U.S. leader tried to smooth over controversies on trade, Brexit and his critical assessment of British Prime Minister Theresa May.

After a breach of protocol in bashing his hosts, Trump was on his best behavior as he wrapped up the visit, insisting the U.S.-U.K. relationship is at “the highest level of special” before dropping by Windsor Castle for tea with the queen and heading off for a weekend at one of his golf courses in Scotland. He left a trail of double-talk and chaos that has become a pattern in the U.S. president’s recent overseas travels.

Even Trump’s reception by Queen Elizabeth II at Windsor Castle became a dramatic split-screen event, as the Justice Department in Washington simultaneously announced indictments against 12 Russian military intelligence officers for 2016 election interference, charges issued just days before Trump’s summit with Russia’s Vladimir Putin on Monday.

Trump’s pomp-filled visit to the U.K. was overshadowed by an explosive interview in The Sun newspaper in which he blasted May, blamed London’s mayor for terrorist attacks against the city and argued that Europe was “losing its culture” because of immigration.

The president who prides himself on not apologizing did his own version of backpedaling at a news conference with May on Friday, seeking to blame his favorite foil for any perceived friction with May, whom he lavished with praise after having questioned her leadership.

“I didn’t criticize the prime minister,” Trump said. “I have a lot of respect for the prime minister.” He blamed the newspaper for skipping over his praise of May in a piece that was published Thursday just as the prime minister played host to Trump 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. But the audio already posted on The Sun’s website only undermined Trump’s familiar charge of “fake news.”

In the interview, Trump criticized May’s plan for Brexit and said it may cause a proposed U.K.-U.S. trade deal to collapse. He questioned her competence just as her government is in turmoil from contentious negotiations on how Britain will leave the European Union.

“Well, I think the deal that she is striking is not what the people voted on,” Trump said in the interview. He also praised one of May’s political rivals, former foreign secretary Boris Johnson, who resigned from her government in protest this week. The president backed away from the comments on Friday, saying of May’s Brexit talks: “Whatever you’re going to do is OK with us. Just make sure we can trade together. That’s all that matters.”

May, for her part, praised the strength of the British-U.S. bond. But in a gentle rebuke, she 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 that flew over Parliament on Friday 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 for Russian aggression in Crimea, placed fair trade at the center of Britain’s efforts to leave the European Union, defended his beliefs that immigration has damaged Europe and repeatedly jousted with television correspondents’ whose coverage he found critical.

The news conference was a scene in itself, featuring the moos of cows in the distance. And Trump at times drew laughs from some British reporters, who jeered his criticism of the media and openly laughed at his numerous boasts.

In Britain, the takeaway from Trump’s trip across the pond will probably be the interview, in which he accused May of ruining what her country stands to gain from its Brexit vote to leave the EU. Trump linked his own election to the June 2016 referendum in which a slim majority of British voters supported leaving the EU.

Up to 100,000 people massed in London for demonstrations against the president’s visit. Marchers gathered in central London before walking through the center of the city to Parliament — where earlier the 20-foot baby blimp hovered overhead. One sign read “Trump wears poorly tailored suits,” another proclaimed “Overcomb Brexit.” One man was selling rolls of “Trump toilet paper” emblazoned with a picture of the president.