The White House tried to clean up President Trump’s explosive interview where he trashed British Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit plan after pointing to ‘turmoil’ in her government – saying he likes May ‘very much’ and she is ‘terrific.’
White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders issued the unusual personality-based statement after Trump’s gave an interview with Britain’s Sun where he said her soft Brexit plan would ‘kill the deal’ and said just-resigned Boris Johnson would make a ‘great prime minister.’
‘The President likes and respects Prime Minister May very much,’ Sanders said in the statement.
‘As he said in his interview with the Sun she ‘is a very good person’ and he ‘never said anything bad about her,’ she added – immediately following a black tie event at Blenheim Palace in London where Trump held May’s hand to guide her up the stairs.
US President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump are welcomed at Blenheim Palace by Britain Prime Minister Theresa May and her husband Philip May
‘He thought she was great on NATO today and is a really terrific person,’ she gushed in the statement, the Washington Post reported.
She continued: ‘He is thankful for the wonderful welcome from the Prime Minister here in the U.K.’
Trump will have to deal with fallout from his shots at May at a press conference Friday at Chequers, the prime minister’s official country house.
The walk-back came after Trump began his trip pointing to ‘turmoil’ in Britain and saying he thought his summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin would be easier than either his trip to the UK or NATO.
In Brussels this week, Trump harangued Germany during a breakfast with the NATO secretary general, bashing Angela Merkel for buying energy from Russia and for not boosting defense spending fast enough.
The vote of confidence in May’s personality came after Trump warned that her soft Brexit plan would ‘kill the deal’ between the US and Britain on trade, in an incendiary interview just as his visit to Britain began.
From left, first lady Melania Trump, President Donald Trump, British Prime Minister Theresa May and her husband Philip May watch during the arrival ceremony at Blenheim Palace
Awkwardly grabbing Theresa May hand – in a replay of their White House meeting last year – Trump was treated to a fanfare welcome by the Scots, Irish and Welsh Guards bands
Trump also said the prime minister has ignored his advice on Brexit negotiations, explaining: ‘I would have done it differently’.
Talking to The Sun before his trip to Britain, he 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.
‘I actually told Theresa May how to do it, but she didn’t listen to me’.
Sources close to the president earlier warned that a lucrative transatlantic trade deal would be impossible if the UK keeps close ties with Brussels – effectively meaning Britain must choose between the US and EU.
In an interview with the British newspaper, Mr Trump said he thought Boris Johnson would make a ‘great prime minister’ and that he was ‘saddened’ the former foreign secretary was out of the government.
The president also renewed his war of words with Sadiq Khan, saying the London mayor has ‘done a very bad job on terrorism’.
He said he thought that allowing ‘millions and millions’ of people into Europe was ‘very sad’ and pointed to crime being ‘brought in’ to London, criticising the Labour mayor for failing to deal with it.
Europe, he added, is ‘losing its culture’ because of mass migration and warned it will never be the same again unless leaders act quickly.
‘Look around,’ he said. ‘You go through certain areas that didn’t exist ten or 15 years ago.’ He added: ‘Allowing the immigration to take place in Europe is a shame.’
President Trump’s wife Melania wore a floor-length, pleated buttercup yellow gown for her first visit to Britain as First Lady
President Trump and his wife walked hand-in-hand to Marine One which flew them from London to the evening’s gala dinner
US First Lady Melania Trump, US President Donald Trump, Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May and her husband Philip May stand on steps in the Great Court watching and listening to the bands of the Scots, Irish and Welsh Guards perform a ceremonial welcome
Theresa May has used a lavish welcome dinner for Donald Trump at Blenheim Palace to press her case for an ambitious new trade deal with the US after Brexit
Britain and the US are the largest investors in each other’s economies, with over a trillion dollars of investments between them, said Mrs May (left with her husband, right with Trump)
Fanfare: Bandsmen from the Scots, Welsh and Irish Guards welcomed the Presidential party to Blenheim Palace last night
Dignitaries including International Trade minister Liam Fox (centre) awaited the President’s arrival for the Blenheim dinner
Discussing protests – including the decision by anti-Trump activists to fly a giant blimp of the president wearing a nappy over the capital – he said they made him feel unwelcome in London.
He added that he used to love the city, but now feels little reason to go there because of the animosity directed towards him.
But he did say he respected the Queen, telling The Sun she is a ‘tremendous woman’ who has never made any embarrassing mistakes.
And the president also said he loves the UK and believes the British people ‘want the same thing I want’.
It comes after Theresa May used a lavish welcome dinner for Trump at Blenheim Palace to press her case for an ambitious new trade deal with the US after Brexit.
Trump arrived in Marine One in a tuxedo alongside First Lady Melania, wearing a floor-length, pleated buttercup yellow gown.
Awkwardly grabbing Theresa May’s hand – in a replay of their White House meeting last year – Trump was treated to a fanfare welcome by the Welsh, Irish and Scots Guards’ bands.
The president was given a performance of Amazing Grace featuring a bagpipe solo during his red-carpet reception as well as Liberty Fanfare and the National Emblem.
Critics of the Prime Minister’s proposals for future relations with the EU claim that her willingness to align with Brussels rules on agricultural produce will block a US deal.
That is because Washington is certain to insist on the inclusion of GM crops and hormone-enhanced beef, which are banned in Europe.
But addressing the US president in front of an audience of business leaders at Winston Churchill’s birthplace, Mrs May insisted that Brexit provides an opportunity for an ‘unprecedented’ agreement to boost jobs and growth.
Noting that more than one million Americans already work for British-owned firms, she told Mr Trump: ‘As we prepare to leave the European Union, we have an unprecedented opportunity to do more.
In an apparent plea to the president to remember his allies when he meets Vladimir Putin in Helsinki in Monday, May noted that Britain and America work closely together in the interests of their shared security, ‘whether through targeting Daesh terrorists or standing up to Russian aggression’
Mrs May said that the history, language, values and culture shared by the UK and US ‘inspire mutual respect’ and make the two nations ‘not just the closest of allies, but the dearest of friends’
A member of security cleans the limousine of U.S. President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump at Blenheim Palace this evening
‘It’s an opportunity to reach a free trade agreement that creates jobs and growth here in the UK and right across the United States.
‘It’s also an opportunity to tear down the bureaucratic barriers that frustrate business leaders on both sides of the Atlantic.
‘And it’s an opportunity to shape the future of the world through co-operation in advanced technology, such as artificial intelligence.’
She also highlighted the importance of trans-Atlantic business links to a president who has sometimes seemed more interested in forging new links with former adversaries around the world than nurturing long-standing partnerships.
Britain and the US are the largest investors in each other’s economies, with over a trillion dollars of investments between them, said Mrs May.
And she told the president: ‘The strength and breadth of Britain’s contribution to the US economy cannot be understated.
‘The UK is the largest investor in the US, providing nearly a fifth of all foreign investment in your country.
‘We invest 30 per cent more than our nearest rival. More than 20 times what China invests. And more than France and Germany combined.
‘That all means a great deal more than simply numbers in bank accounts.
The Duke of Malborough, James Spencer-Churchill (right in both photos above), with his son The Marquess of Blandford, who both welcomed the Trumps to their ancestral home Blenheim Palace
Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson arrives in a tuxedo at Blenheim Palace as President Donald Trump is given a formal welcome
Guests are expected to enjoy a meal of Scottish salmon, English beef and a desert of strawberries and cream. Pictured: William Hague arrives
Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt and his wife Lucia arrive at Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire, for a dinner hosted by Prime Minister Theresa May for President Donald Trump
‘It means jobs, opportunities and wealth for hardworking people right across America.’
British firms represented at the Blenheim banquet alone employ more than 250,000 people in the US, she said.
Mr Trump earlier made clear that he did not approve of the softer stance the PM has been advocating despite fury from many Tory MPs.
‘Brexit is Brexit, the people voted to break it up so I would imagine that is what they’ll do, but they might take a different route. I’m not sure that’s what people voted for,’ Mr Trump said.
Mrs May dismissed the criticism as she departed the summit this afternoon, telling journalists: ‘We have come to an agreement at the proposal we’re putting to the European Union which absolutely delivers on the Brexit people voted for.
‘They voted for us to take back control of our money, our law and our borders and that’s exactly what we will do’.
The Presidential helicopter Marine One ferried the Trumps from the US ambassador’s residence in London to Blenheim Palace
Protesters gathered at the security fence watch as US President Donald Trump and US First Lady Melania Trump leave in Marine One from the US ambassador’s residence, Winfield House
Several protesters hold up their placards outside Blenheim Palace, where President Donald Trump will have dinner tonight
Anti-Trump activists gather outside the ‘Ring of Steel’ fence put up to secure the president when he stays in Regent’s Park, London
The protesters promised to create a ‘wall of sound’ outside the official US ambassador’s residence. Above, a woman strikes a colander with a ladle while others hold up signs expressing disapprobation of the president
Mr Trump also said the UK was a ‘pretty hot spot right now’ with ‘lots of resignations’.
‘Brexit is – I have been reading about Brexit a lot over the last few days and it seems to be turning a little bit differently where they are getting at least partially involved back with the European Union,’ he said.
‘I have no message it is not for me to say…’
He added: ‘I’d like to see them be able to work it out so it can go quickly – whatever they work out.
‘I would say Brexit is Brexit. When you use the term hard Brexit I assume that’s what you mean.
‘I just want the people to be happy…..I am sure there will be protests because there are always protests.’
Speaking about the prospect of demonstrations in the UK over his visit, Mr Trump told reporters: ‘They like me a lot in the UK. I think they agree with me on immigration.’
Angry anti-Trump activists hold up signs and bang pots and colanders outside the US ambassador’s Regent’s Park residence
He added: ‘I think that’s why Brexit happened.’
Mrs May was joined at Blenheim by ministers including Chancellor Philip Hammond, Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson, Trade Secretary Liam Fox, Business Secretary Greg Clark, Transport Secretary Chris Grayling and her effective deputy David Lidington.
Boris Johnson missed out on a seat at the table by resigning as foreign secretary on Monday in protest at Mrs May’s Brexit policy, though Mr Trump has said he might try to speak to him during his visit.
Mrs May, dressed in an ankle length red gown and red high heeled shoes, and her husband Philip, in black tie, welcomed Mr Trump and wife Melania to the gala dinner on the first evening of the President’s working visit to the UK.
The Trumps arrived from London by Marine One helicopter before being driven in the armoured presidential limousine, nicknamed The Beast, to the opulent 18th century palace near Woodstock in Oxfordshire.
Built for the Duke of Marlborough in recognition of his military victories and named a Unesco World Heritage Site, Blenheim is one of a series of historic architectural gems Mr Trump will visit on a four-day trip.
His arrival was marked by a military ceremony, with bandsmen of the Scots, Irish and Welsh Guards playing the Liberty Fanfare, Amazing Grace and the National Emblem.
Leaders of the financial services, travel, creative, food, engineering, technology, infrastructure, pharmaceutical and defence sectors were among around 100 guests who dined on Scottish salmon, English Hereford beef fillet and strawberries with clotted cream ice-cream.
Mrs May told him: ‘Mr President, Sir Winston Churchill once said that ‘to have the United States at our side was, to me, the greatest joy’.
‘The spirit of friendship and co-operation between our countries, our leaders and our people, that most special of relationships, has a long and proud history.
‘Now, for the benefit of all our people, let us work together to build a more prosperous future.’
Mrs May said that the history, language, values and culture shared by the UK and US ‘inspire mutual respect’ and make the two nations ‘not just the closest of allies, but the dearest of friends’.
Blenheim’s glorious history: From 18th century gift to a victorious general to birthplace of Winston Churchill
Presented by Queen Anne to the Duke of Marlborough, John Churchill in 1704, Blenheim Palace has always been a symbol of British pride.
The astonishing Oxfordshire pile has seen everything from Sir Winston Churchill’s birth in 1874 to two World Wars in which it acted both as a military hospital and a college for boys.
Churchill, who also married his wife, Clementine Hozier at the palace once said: ‘At Blenheim I took two very important decisions; to be born and to marry. I am content with the decision I took on both occasions…’
The baroque-style site set in 11,500 acres was listed as a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 1987 and is owned by 13 trustees including Sir Rocco Forte of Rocco Forte Hotels.
Currently the 12th Duke of Marlborough, Jamie Blandford, and his family live in a section of the palace, although he does not appear to be on the board of trustees.
The astonishing Oxfordshire pile has seen everything from Sir Winston Churchill’s birth in 1874 to two World Wars in which it acted both as a military hospital and a college for boys
Churchill, who also married his wife, Clementine Hozier at the palace once said: ‘At Blenheim I took two very important decisions; to be born and to marry. I am content with the decision I took on both occasions…’
In more recent years, Blenheim has been used as a set in a number of blockbuster films.
The famous ‘Harry Potter tree’ that appeared in Severus Snape’s flashback scene in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix still stands in the palace grounds, despite fears the ancient Cedar had developed a deadly disease two years ago.
The palace’s additional film credits include the James Bond film, Spectre 007, in which it doubled as Rome’s Palazzo Cadenza, and Mission Impossible – Rogue Nation, in which the building’s Green Writing Room acted as the set for a crucial meeting between the British Prime Minister and a secret agent.
Perhaps Mission Impossible’s location team were inspired by the events of September 1940, when MI5 used Blenheim Palace as a real-life base.
Originally called Woodstock Manor, the land was given to the first Duke of Marlborough by the British in recognition of an English victory over the French in the war of the Spanish Succession.
A Column of Victory stands central to the 2,000 acres of parkland and 90 acres of formal garden landscaped by Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown.
At 134ft-tall the monument depicts the first Duke of Marlborough as a Roman General.
Meanwhile the magnificent Baroque palace was designed by Sir John Vanbrugh who reportedly aimed to create a ‘naturalistic Versailles’.
In an apparent plea to the president to remember his allies when he meets Vladimir Putin in Helsinki in Monday, she noted that Britain and America work closely together in the interests of their shared security, ‘whether through targeting Daesh terrorists or standing up to Russian aggression’.
The Countess of Wessex’s Orchestra played British and American hits of the 20th century during dinner.
And Mr Trump, whose mother was Scottish, was due to be piped out by the Royal Regiment of Scotland as he and Melania left to spend the night at the US ambassador’s residence in London’s Regent’s Park.
Outside the palace gates, several hundred protesters waved banners and placards reading Dump Trump, Not Welcome Here, Protect children Not Trump and Keep Your Tiny Hands Off My P****!
Trump touched down in Britain for his first official visit early yesterday after landing at Stansted Airport
Most people, a number of whom said they worked at the embassy in London, were tight-lipped as they left a secured area in the park near the US ambassador’s residence, where Mr Trump and his wife Melania stayed overnight.
Some cited ‘job restrictions’ while another said he was wary of the press. But one woman said Mr Trump had given a ‘short speech’ which she described as ‘lovely’.
US President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania were given a guard of honour by the RAF after arriving in the UK today
Earlier President Trump and Melania walked from Air Force One as they landed at Stansted Airport this afternoon
Britain’s most elite counter terrorism police unit CTSFO are also shadowing the US President during his high-profile stay
The exterior of The Trump Arms public house in west London, formally named The Jameson, which has embraced the arrival of US President Donald Trump. Damien Smyth, from County Antrim in Northern Ireland, runs the establishment. He told the i newspaper: ‘America is our biggest ally. They’re our best friends in the world. They’d be the ones here first if something went wrong – not Germany, not France. I think these people protesting his visit are rude and insulting’
Donald Trump raises his fist in the air as he lands at the US Ambassador’s historic London home at the start of his four-day tour
Marine One carrying The Donald and his wife passes the BT Tower and comes in to land at the US Ambassador’s central London residence this afternoon
Another man, who did not wish to give his name, said: ‘It was very complimentary to England and to the allies that we have, very positive.’
The US President, 72, who will meet the Prime Minister and Queen during a four-day red carpet visit, landed at Stansted Airport on Air Force One at just before 2pm and walked off hand-in-hand with First Lady Melania.
America’s Commander-in-Chief has 1,000 of his own staff in the UK and a giant motorcade led by his bomb-proof Cadillac nicknamed ‘The Beast’ as well as multiple helicopters including Marine One to fly him around.
The President and his First Lady were met on the tarmac by US Ambassador Woody Johnson and UK Trade Secretary Liam Fox before he was whisked off to Mr Johnson’s house near Regent’s Park.
Earlier Mr Trump gave an extraordinary press conference in Brussels after giving NATO leaders a bruising over defence cash, where he wrote off protesters and said Theresa May’s Brexit deal probably wasn’t what Britons voted for.
When asked about the threat of mass demonstrations he said: ‘I think it’s fine. A lot of people like me there. I think they agree with me on immigration. I think that’s why Brexit happened’.
Donald Trump salutes the US Marines who flew him from Stansted to Regent’s Park in London on the first day of his four-day tour
Mr Trump and Melania hold hands and talk to US Ambassador Woody Johnson, who will give them a place to stay tonight
Marine One, the President’s helicopter, is one of a large number of aircraft he has brought with him for the British visit (shown here landing with him inside)
His aerial entourage followed him, and included an Osprey helicopter carrying elite troops from the US Marine Corps protecting him in the UK
Protesters, meanwhile, staged a noisy gathering near Winfield House where Trump and his wife Melania spent the night.
A large group of demonstrators adopted an alternative version of England’s World Cup anthem Three Lions as they sang and shouted, ‘He’s going home, he’s going home, he’s going, Trump is going home’ in Regent’s Park.
A wide range of campaigners, including unions, faith and environmental groups came together to unite in opposition to Mr Trump’s visit to the UK, organisers said.
Bells and whistles rang out alongside cheers and claps for speakers throughout the protest, staged near the US ambassador’s official residence, as the crowd was encouraged to shout loudly in the hope Mr Trump could hear.
Placards including ‘Dump Trump’ and ‘Trump not welcome’ were held aloft by the enthusiastic crowd before some began banging on the metal fence which has been erected in the park.
A clip of what organisers said was the sound of children crying at the US border after being separated from their parents was played and described by those listening as ‘disgusting’.
Donald Trump’s motorcade speeds through Regent’s Park led by elite British police from Scotland Yard
Marine One comes in to land at the US Ambassador’s central London residence this afternoon, which sits next door to the London Central Mosque in Regent’s Park (minaret pictured)
Days of protests are planned for The Donald’s visit, including a march through central London tomorrow and everywhere he is visiting
The ‘Nuclear Football’ – the suitcase containing the United States’ nuclear codes – is shown being carried by a member of Trump’s entourage after the president landed in Stansted
This giant and controversial Trump balloon showing the world leader in a nappy will be flying over London this weekend
Sam Fullerton from Oklahoma said while Mr Trump may not see the protest from Winfield House which is set back inside the fenced-off area in the park, he hoped he would hear it or see it on television.
Mr Fullerton said: ‘He watches a lot of TV so he’ll see it on TV. Or they may be out in the backyard.’
His wife Jami, a Hillary Clinton supporter, said the protest was ‘democracy at its finest’.
‘I’m here to witness democracy outside of our own country to see how other democratic societies express themselves,’ she said.
‘I think it’s great. The British are pretty gentle people.’
John Rees, of the Stop The War group, described Mr Trump as a ‘wrecking ball’ as he addressed those gathered.
He said: ‘He’s a wrecking ball for race relations, he’s a wrecking ball for prosperity, he’s a wrecking ball for women’s rights, he’s a wrecking ball for any peace and justice in this world and we have to stop him.’
Some of those gathered said they planned to stay for Mr Trump’s return after the First Couple dine at Blenheim Palace with Theresa May.