With the Brexit crisis threatening to topple Theresa May’s government, Donald Trump rolled into the U.K. Thursday seemingly bent on finishing it off.
Ahead of a one-on-one lunch Friday with the beleaguered British prime minister, Trump gave an extraordinary interview to the Rupert Murdoch-owned newspaper The Sun, eviscerating the Tory leader and her negotiating abilities, undercutting her Brexit plan and boosting Boris Johnson, one of her main rivals for the party leadership.
Incredibly, Trump said that May’s published plan for exiting Britain from the European Union would “kill” any hopes of a new trade deal with the U.S.
“If they do a deal like that, we would be dealing with the European Union instead of dealing with the U.K., so it will probably kill the deal,” Trump said.
Hours after the interview, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders attempted to repair some of the damage, releasing a statement that insisted Trump “likes and respects Mrs. May very much,” adding: “He thought she was great on NATO today and is a really terrific person.”
The Sun and Murdoch have long been cheerleaders for the U.K. to leave the EU. Trump’s opinion was also reportedly informed by Nigel Farage, the ex-UKIP leader who is currently a person of interest to Robert Mueller’s campaign into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
Farage claims he was whispering in Trump’s ear during the interview:
Trump’s quotes dropped while he was posing for photos with May at Blenheim Palace, the ancestral home of Winston Churchill.
It appeared that May had not been briefed on the interview when she spoke at dinner about the “special relationship” between the U.S. and U.K.
“The spirit of friendship and cooperation between our countries, our leaders and our people, that most special of relationships, has a long and proud history,” May told Trump. “Now, for the benefit of all our people, let us work together to build a more prosperous future.”
The newspaper’s political editor Tom Newton-Dunn revealed Friday that Sanders had attempted to stop the interview several times, but Trump “swatted her away” and “kept on talking” beyond the allotted 10 minutes.
“He is unchallenged in his own organization, it’s like being in the court of a medieval emperor,” he said.
Tens of thousands of protesters are expected to line the streets of London Friday to demonstrate against the president’s visit.
Here are the craziest things Trump said in the interview:
- On Boris Johnson: Whether knowingly or not, Trump stabbed May in the back by proclaiming Boris Johnson — who resigned as foreign Secretary earlier this week — would “make a great Prime Minister.” He added: “I was very saddened to see he was leaving government and I hope he goes back in at some point. I think he is a great representative for your country.” The reason Trump likes Johnson so much? “He obviously likes me, and says very good things about me,” Trump said.
- On the bossy school teacher: A Washington Post report recently claimed Trump had referred to May as a “bossy school teacher” but the president flatly denied the report: “No, no, no, no. I never said anything bad about her. That is fake news. I think she is a nice person. I get along with her very nicely.” And of course he couldn’t miss an opportunity to blast the media, referring to the Post as “totally fake” and “just a lobbyist for Amazon.”
- On Negotiating: Trump says he gave May his top tips for negotiating Brexit — but she chose to ignore them. “I would have done it much differently. I actually told Theresa May how to do it but she didn’t agree, she didn’t listen to me. She wanted to go a different route. I would actually say that she probably went the opposite way. And that is fine.”
- On the Brexit deal: Like many members of May’s own party, Trump doesn’t think very much of the plan she presented in parliament Thursday — the same plan that prompted Johnson and Brexit Secretary David Davis to quit. “It was not the deal that was in the referendum. I have just been hearing this over the last three days. I know they have had a lot of resignations. So a lot of people don’t like it.”
- On England: Trump was presented with an England soccer shirt by the Sun, to which he replied: “Wow, I love gifts.” before adding: “You don’t hear the word England as much as you should. I think England is a beautiful name.”
- On the protests: During his impromptu NATO press conference Thursday, Trump dismissed the protests for his visit, saying they “like me a lot in the U.K.” However, in his interview, Trump revealed that he “feels unwelcome” in London, and that he has heard about the Baby Trump blimp being flown in parliament square. “I guess when they put out blimps to make me feel unwelcome, no reason for me to go to London.”
- On Mayor of London: Sadiq Khan has been one of Trump’s most vocal critics since he took office and Trump said he blamed Khan and other politicians for the level of animosity towards him in the U.K. “You have a mayor who has done a terrible job in London. He has done a terrible job,” Trump said.
- On immigration: Preventing people from certain countries and religions from entering the U.S. has been central to Trump’s presidency, and unsurprisingly, he thinks what is happening in Europe is not good. “Allowing the immigration to take place in Europe is a shame. I think it changed the fabric of Europe and, unless you act very quickly, it’s never going to be what it was and I don’t mean that in a positive way. I think you are losing your culture. Look around. You go through certain areas that didn’t exist ten or 15 years ago.”
- On hospitals: Trump once again took time to attack the condition of an unnamed London hospital. “What they say is, it is worse than any hospital they have ever seen in a war zone. It is right in the middle of London. I guess it used to be the ultimate and now there is, you know, there is blood all over the walls, all over the floors. It was a very major story and I have heard it from others, too, so I think it is very sad. Very sad.” Trump is believed to be referring to the Royal London Hospital, which dealt with a record 702 stabbings last year. The hospital said Friday it was “absolutely refuting this claim that there are blood on the walls and floor of the hospital.”
- On himself: Having finished praising himself for the unconfirmed claim that he forced NATO allies to boost their defense spending, Trump moved to remind everyone of just how great he is, and how much everyone really loves him. “You know, a poll just came out that I am the most popular person in the history of the Republican Party — 92 percent,” Trump said. ”Beating Lincoln. I beat our Honest Abe.”
Cover image: Demonstrators raise a six meter high effigy of Donald Trump, being dubbed the 'Trump Baby', in Parliament Square in protest against the U.S. President's current visit to the United Kingdom on July 13, 2018 in London, United Kingdom. (Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images)