Pomp, protests mark Trump UK state visit
President TrumpDonald John TrumpHead of Trump’s Council of Economic Advisers to depart administration The Guardian editorial board says Trump is ‘not welcome’ in U.K. ahead of his first state visit Kushner casts doubt on the ability of Palestinians to govern themselves MORE combined pomp with pugnaciousness on Monday as he kicked off his first state visit to the United Kingdom by exchanging pleasantries with Queen Elizabeth II and the royal family soon after escalating his feud with London Mayor Sadiq Khan.
The tumult, along with various anti-Trump protests, set the stage for what could be a contentious meeting on Tuesday with outgoing British Prime Minister Theresa MayTheresa Mary MayThe Guardian editorial board says Trump is ‘not welcome’ in U.K. ahead of his first state visit Trump calls London Mayor Sadiq Khan Bill de Blasio’s twin, ‘except shorter’ Trump says he supports UK leaving EU without a Brexit deal MORE.
The official portion of the visit began as the White House had hoped, with the president and first lady Melania TrumpMelania TrumpTrump launching 2020 campaign on June 18 with Florida rally The Hill’s 12:30 Report: Trump rattles markets with Mexico tariffs The Hill’s Morning Report — Trump turns the page back to Mueller probe MORE welcomed at Buckingham Palace by Prince Charles and his wife, Camilla, before receiving a gun salute and reviewing an honor guard in the palace garden.
The queen greeted Trump with a smile and a handshake before leading everyone inside. Trump avoided the breach of protocol last year that marred their first meeting, when the president walked in front of the queen.
The day was capped off by a lavish state banquet, where guests dined on filet of halibut and lamb saddle and sipped Chateau Lafite Rothschild 1990, which retails in the U.S. for between $700 and $800 a bottle, according to wine-searcher.com.
Trump and the queen offered each other toasts that stuck to script, marking their countries’ victory in World War II and touting their shared values.
“On behalf of all Americans, I offer a toast to the eternal friendship of our people, the vitality of our nations and to the long cherished and truly remarkable reign of her majesty, the queen,” the president, wearing a white tie and tails, said while reading from prepared remarks.
The images were broadcast live by cable and broadcast television networks in the U.S., cutting into news coverage that had been dominated by his roiling moves on trade, the ongoing debate about whether congressional Democrats should impeach him and growing scrutiny of the White House’s Middle East peace plan.
But by the time Trump arrived at the palace, he had already caused a diplomatic stir by blasting Khan.
The president appeared to be responding to the mayor’s Sunday column in the British newspaper The Observer, in which Khan wrote that Trump did not deserve the red-carpet treatment and that the decision to honor him with a state visit “will be one we look back on with profound regret and acknowledge that we were on the wrong side of history.”
“@SadiqKhan, who by all accounts has done a terrible job as Mayor of London, has been foolishly ‘nasty’ to the visiting President of the United States, by far the most important ally of the United Kingdom,” Trump tweeted just before Air Force One landed outside London. “He is a stone cold loser who should focus on crime in London, not me.”
Trump added that Khan reminds him of “very dumb and incompetent” New York City Mayor Bill de BlasioBill de Blasio’Hitler is coming’ message found at New York City Jewish Children’s Museum Long-shot Dems see little downside in running for president Can Bullock’s secret sauce for winning a red state land Democrats the White House? MORE (D), but is “only half his height.” De Blasio, a longtime Trump target, is one of 24 candidates seeking the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.
And while Trump received a statesman’s welcome at the palace, the reception was expected to be different on Tuesday on the streets of London, where thousands planned to protest against his visit. The demonstrations were cheered on by Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, who said he would speak to the anti-Trump crowd.
The demonstrations began Monday, with anti-Trump activists projecting side-by-side images of Trump and former President Obama’s U.K. approval ratings and a USS John McCain hat — a reference to reports the White House attempted to hide the ship during Trump’s recent visit to Japan. On top of that, a teenager mowed a giant penis into a field in the flight path of London’s Stansted Airport, where Trump landed Monday.
Trump downplayed the protests, tweeting that his London visit “is going really well” and saying he has seen only “tremendous crowds of well wishers and people that love our Country.”
“Haven’t seen any protests yet, but I’m sure the Fake News will be working hard to find them. Great love all around,” he wrote.
It is possible that Trump did not see any protesters because he spent the vast majority of his time in central London, where police established a large security perimeter in anticipation of his visit.
Tuesday brings the potential for even more controversy with a meeting and joint press conference with May.
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The British prime minister’s tenure was undone by her failure to broker a deal to withdraw the U.K. from the European Union, and Trump criticized her handling of Brexit before leaving for his trip.
May is set to step down on June 7.
The president also injected himself into the race to replace May by praising her longtime rival Boris Johnson, saying he would be an “excellent” Conservative Party leader and prime minister.
“I like him. I have always liked him. I don’t know that he is going to be chosen, but I think he is a very good guy, a very talented person,” Trump told The Sun in an interview published over the weekend.
The president said he might meet with Johnson and pro-Brexit leader Nigel Farage during his two-day visit, meetings that would surely rile the prime minister’s race.
Monday’s events were mostly ceremonial. The first couple had lunch with the queen, then viewed a royal gift display at the palace that included old photos of golfers at St. Andrews, a map of colonial New York and images of and writings about George Washington. The Trumps also received a tour of Westminster Abbey and viewed a U.S. wreath at the grave of the Unknown Warrior.
But there were a few subtle signs of tension during those events. The queen in her state banquet toast praised multilateral institutions, such as NATO, that Trump has often derided, saying that the U.S. and U.K. worked together after World War II to form “an assembly of international institutions to ensure that the horrors of conflict would never be repeated.”
Trump, meanwhile, cited “sovereignty” — a rallying cry for Brexiteers who chafe at EU rules — as one of the shared values of both nations.
One notable absence from the state dinner was that of Duchess Meghan MarkleMeghan MarkleTrump calls London Mayor Sadiq Khan Bill de Blasio’s twin, ‘except shorter’ Trump: I never called Meghan Markle ‘nasty’ Royal Family announces the name of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s baby MORE, who is on maternity leave after giving birth to her son. Trump called Markle “nasty” for criticizing him as “misogynistic” during the 2016 campaign, but he later denied using that word to describe her.
After the state visit portion of his trip concludes, Trump is scheduled to attend a D-Day commemoration in Portsmouth, England, before traveling to Normandy, France, to mark the 75th anniversary of the Allied invasion during World War II. He will also meet with French President Emmanuel MacronEmmanuel Jean-Michel MacronInteresting timing for French recognition of British icon Princess Diana Trump’s Africa initiative to be unveiled next month: Still a work in progress Euroskeptics, Greens gain in EU elections as centrist parties lose ground MORE.