By the time Donald Trump was wheels down in the U.K., he had already inflicted more irreparable damage on America’s reputation with its traditional allies.
Everyone knew Trump’s presence at the NATO summit would produce a multitude of cringe-worthy soundbites and laughable photo ops and indeed, he made no secret of his intention to shake the proverbial tree ahead of the trip.
Sure enough, he accused Germany of being a “captive” to Russia and, according to multiple reports, at least suggested that if America’s NATO allies didn’t immediately take measures to increase defense spending, he would consider pulling the U.S. out of the alliance and “going it alone.”
Asked at the post-summit press conference about Brexit, Trump delivered some of his trademark “covfefe”, including the following characteristically trenchant analysis:
Brexit is Brexit.
Speaking of Brexit being Brexit, Theresa May has been at pains recently to figure out a way to make Brexit not Brexit, an effort designed to avoid all of the inevitable negatives that would accompany a hard split.
The problem is, she’s opened herself up to allegations that she’s betraying the will of the people, but as The Guardian’s Martin Kettle wrote this week, that assumes it’s possible to pin down precisely what Brexit even is:
The fundamental practical difficulty that all Brexiteers have faced since June 2016 is that dreams of this kind oversimplify a world full of complexity. Brexit was offered as a single liberating proposition, when in fact it involved multi-layered consequences and implications that require negotiation with others. It is hardly surprising that the May cabinet and the wider Tory party have struggled to come up with a defined view of Brexit because, in the end, Brexit isn’t a plan at all. It’s an attitude, not an agenda.
This is an impossible task for Theresa May and the resignation of Boris Johnson and David Davis underscored the exceptionally tenuous nature of this entire enterprise.
Given her recent trials and tribulations, just about the last think Theresa May needed was for Donald Trump to not only show up in the U.K. (to planned protests, by the way), but to undermine her efforts and embolden the Brexiteers with a bombshell interview released the very night of his arrival.
But that’s just what happened.
Just after 5 PM in New York, The Sun’s Tom Newton Dunn began tweeting quotes from a “world exclusive” interview with Trump in which the U.S. President not only claims he tried to instruct Theresa May how to go about Brexit-ing, but also says her approach imperils potential bilateral trade deals between the U.S. and the U.K. To wit, from The Sun:
In an extraordinary intervention timed to coincide with his UK visit, Mr Trump said Theresa May ignored his advice by opting for a soft Brexit strategy.
And he warned her any attempts to maintain close ties with the EU would make a lucrative US trade deal very unlikely.
Mr Trump said: “If they do a deal like that, we would be dealing with the European Union instead of dealing with the UK, so it will probably kill the deal.”
And it gets worse – so much worse. Here are some other bullet points from the interview:
His comments, damaging to the Prime Minster, come as he delivers his most brutally honest verdict yet on Britain in which he also:
- Accused EU leaders of destroying its culture and identity by allowing in millions of migrants
- Tore into London Mayor Sadiq Khan for not standing up to terrorists
- Blamed Khan for spiraling crime in the capital
- Insisted former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson would make “a great Prime Minister”
- Denied once branding Theresa May a “bossy schoolteacher”
- Maintained he would keep ties with Russian tyrant Vladimir Putin despite the Salisbury Novichok poisonings
- Demanded Britain and other Nato countries spend more on defence
- Spoke of his sadness at feeling unwelcome in the capital by anti-Trump protesters
- Claimed millions of Brits backed his policies
Not to put too fine a point on it, but this is a diplomatic nightmare. That is Donald Trump literally endorsing Boris Johnson for Prime Minister.
Here’s The New York Times describing the scene at Blenheim Palace:
The dinner itself was closed to the press, but shortly before 8 p.m., Mr. and Ms. Trump arrived at the place and were greeted by Mrs. May and her husband, Philip.
The Mays emerged from the palace — a hulking, yellow-tinged stone building with Corinthian columns, ornate turrets and statues adorning the top — and strode down red-carpeted steps and across a large cobblestone plaza.
A band wearing black pants, red coats with gold detail and black furry hats was assembled on both sides of the red carpet, and a crowd of black tie-clad people were in front of the palace awaiting the president’s arrival.
Outside the palace gates, the mood was less celebratory. Hundreds of protesters held signs protesting Mr. Trump’s visit. Many carried signs that read “No to Racism, No to Trump.”
Apparently, word of the interview reached May towards the end of the gala dinner, a laughably humiliating situation for someone who has suffered through her fair share of humiliation over the past year.
The Sun is of course controlled by Rupert Murdoch.
In the final insult, Trump is scheduled to have tea with Queen Elizabeth on Friday.