President Donald Trump wrapped up the official portion of his United Kingdom visit Friday, during which he had falsely denied criticizing his host, met with the Queen and maneuvered around a huge protest against his presence.
Trump ended up denying that he criticized British Prime Minister Theresa May, the day after a British tabloid published an interview with him in which he did just that. He dismissed the interview, conducted by a Rupert Murdoch-owned publication, as “fake news” saying it didn’t include his comments praising May.
Trump said his comments came after he “read some reports” that suggested the United Kingdom would not be able to make a free trade deal with the US, but he said May and her representatives have since reassured him that will still be possible.
“I believe after speaking with the prime minister’s people that it will absolutely be possible,” Trump said. “The only thing I ask of Theresa is that we make sure we can trade, that we don’t have any restrictions, because we want to trade with the UK and the UK wants to trade with us.”
Trump also said Friday he apologized to May for the interview, though it appears his apology was about the paper’s omission of his comments praising her, not his criticism.
“She is a total professional because when I saw her I said, ‘I want to apologize, because I said such good things about you,’ ” Trump said.
Trump said May said, “Don’t worry, it’s only the press.”
Trump took pains Friday to praise May and reaffirm his belief in the special relationship between the US and the UK — “the highest grade of special” — during a news conference in which the questions focused on Trump’s comments a day earlier in which he criticized May’s “soft Brexit” plan and said she didn’t listen to his suggestions on how to exit the European Union.
Still, Trump — despite stomping all over diplomatic protocol by giving a critical interview as he headed to London — did not back away from his comments, reaffirming that he would handle Brexit differently than May and that he believes May’s chief political rival in her own party Boris Johnson “would be a great prime minister.”
“I also said that this incredible woman right here is doing a great job, doing a fantastic job,” Trump said, justifying his comments.
During his news conference, Trump addressed a range of topics including his hope to address nuclear disarmament with Russian President Vladimir Putin during their upcoming Helsinki summit; defending his behavior at the recent NATO summit; and proclaiming that immigration has been “bad for Europe.”