US President Donald Trump denied Friday 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.
The US President, who has faced planned protests in London since his arrival, also told The Sun he feels “unwelcome” in London, explaining why much of his visit will take place outside the capital city.
The “Trump Baby” blimp that was expected as part of the protests floated outside of Britain’s House of Parliament on Friday morning.
Blimp organizer Leo Murray told CNN the giant balloon had been designed to speak to Trump “in a language that he understands, which is personal insults.”
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.”
May insisted Friday that her country would have “no limit to the possibility of doing trade deals around the world” after Brexit.
She was responding to a question about whether her latest Brexit proposal — which includes a “common rulebook” with the European Union — would make it impossible for the UK to make its own trade deals.
May sidestepped a reporter’s question about whether she felt undermined by Trump’s reported comments on her Brexit plan.
Trump insisted that he “didn’t criticize” the British prime minister and said he has “a lot of respect” for her when asked during a joint news conference Friday about his interview with The Sun.
Trump accused the British newspaper of omitting his praise of May, and said, “It’s called fake news.”
“I didn’t criticize the prime minister. I have a lot of respect for the prime minister,” Trump said. “It didn’t put in what I said about the prime minister, and I said tremendous things.”
During opening remarks ahead of the joint news conference with May, Trump said he is “OK with” however the British decide to carry out Brexit, despite trashing May’s “soft Brexit” blueprint in The Sun.
“Whatever you do is OK with me,” Trump said. “Whatever you’re gonna do is OK with us, just make sure we can trade with you, that’s all that matters.”