What do you think? Leave a respectful comment.

How will Trump’s undermining of May play out in British politics?

President Trump lobbed a volley of verbal grenades at British Prime Minister Theresa May in a tabloid interview before he arrived in the UK, saying May had botched Brexit and praising the former foreign secretary as a potential prime minister. Special correspondent Ryan Chilcote joins Judy Woodruff from London to discuss the fallout from the visit.

Read the Full Transcript

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    News of the Russia indictments came as President Trump was in Britain. But his visit to one of America’s closest friends was greeted by a storm of protesters and by a storm he created with new potshots at Britain’s leader.

    Ryan Chilcote begins our coverage.

  • RYAN CHILCOTE:

    This was the picture President Trump had long sought, an audience with Queen Elizabeth, a military honor guard standing at attention at Windsor Castle, followed by tea with the 92-year-old monarch.

    But the courtly scene followed a day of chaos, after Mr. Trump lobbed a volley of verbal grenades squarely at British Prime Minister Theresa May.

    In an interview conducted with The Sun tabloid before he arrived, the president said may botched Britain’s leaving the European Union. And he warned that’s endangered a potential trade deal with the United States.

  • PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP:

    I did give Theresa, who I like — I did give her my views on what she should do and how she should negotiate. And she didn’t follow those views. I would actually say she probably went the opposite way.

    It will definitely affect trade with the United States, unfortunately in a negative way.

  • RYAN CHILCOTE:

    The broadside struck a prime minister already weakened by resignations from her government this week over Brexit. Mr. Trump even praised one of those who quit, former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, as a potential prime minister. He’s said to covet the job.

    On the heels of those headlines, the president arrived midday at Chequers, the prime minister’s retreat outside London. After a meeting and lunch with May, both leaders took questions.

  • PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP:

    I didn’t criticize the prime minister. I have a lot of respect for the prime minister.

  • PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP:

    : The president played down his explosive comments to The Sun with a now familiar tactic.

  • DONALD TRUMP:

    Unfortunately, there was a story that was done, which was, you know, generally fine, but it didn’t put in what I said about the prime minister. And I said tremendous things. But we record when we deal with reporters. It’s called fake news.

  • RYAN CHILCOTE:

    As far as May was concerned, publicly at, least it was much ado about nothing.

  • THERESA MAY:

    We agreed today that, as the U.K. leaves the European Union, we will pursue an ambitious U.S.-U.K. free trade agreement.

  • RYAN CHILCOTE:

    Mr. Trump had also blasted European migration policy in the tabloid interview. Today, he and May sharply diverged on its value.

  • PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP:

    I just think it’s changing the culture. I think it’s a very negative thing for Europe. And I know it’s politically not necessarily correct to say that, but I will say it and I will say it loud. And I think they better watch themselves, because you are changing culture.

    You are changing a lot of things. You’re changing security. And that’s the way I feel.

  • THERESA MAY:

    The U.K. has a proud history of welcoming people who are fleeing persecution to our country. We have a proud history of welcoming people who want to come to our country to contribute to our economy and contribute to our society.

  • RYAN CHILCOTE:

    Having already denounced The Sun interview as fake news, though it was his voice recorded and distributed by the paper, the president also blasted NBC News and CNN.

  • PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP:

    CNN is fake news. I don’t take questions from CNN.

    John Roberts of FOX, let’s go to a real — let’s go to a real network.

  • RYAN CHILCOTE:

    The White House Correspondents Association issued a response that read in part: “Saying a news organization isn’t real doesn’t change the facts and won’t stop us from doing our jobs.”

    President Trump meets Monday with Vladimir Putin, but he argued the Russian president won’t focus on the turmoil he caused at a tense NATO meeting yesterday morning in Brussels.

  • PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP:

    The headline he sees is what happened in the afternoon, where we came together as one, where — where they’re putting up billions of dollars more. Do you think Putin’s happy about that? I don’t think so.

  • THERESA MAY:

    Particularly following the NATO summit, the president is going into this meeting with President Putin from that position of strength.

  • RYAN CHILCOTE:

    After the second raucous press conference in two days, Mr. Trump declared his verdict on the state of U.S.-U.K. relations.

  • PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP:

    I would say the highest level of special. Am I allowed to go — am I allowed to go higher than that? I’m not sure, but it’s the highest level of special. They’re very special people.

  • RYAN CHILCOTE:

    But there was no praise for London’s mayor, Sadiq Khan, who is Muslim. In The Sun interview, the president blamed him for terrorism in the British capital, linking it to migration.

  • PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP:

    Take a look at the terrorism that’s taking place. Look at what’s going on in London. I think he’s done a terrible job.

  • SADIQ KHAN, Mayor of London:

    Immigration has brought huge benefits to our city and our country economically, socially and culturally. And it’s really important that we stand up for those values that we hold dear.

  • RYAN CHILCOTE:

    And in London today, a floating incarnation of the disgust many Britons feel about this visit: a 20-foot-tall caricature of Mr. Trump as diaper-wearing baby, phone held in hand.

  • WOMAN:

    I am fed up with the way Trump is trying to manipulate the world into his, well, almost Nazi views. He thinks he is right on everything.

  • RYAN CHILCOTE:

    It’s just the latest such protest since he took office, and Mr. Trump told his tabloid interviewer that he felt unwelcome in London. The feeling, apparently for many here, was mutual.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    And Ryan Chilcote joins me now from London.

    Ryan, now that President Trump has flown to Scotland to spend the weekend at his golf club, is there a consensus there on the impact that this visit is going to have?

  • RYAN CHILCOTE:

    Look, I think, from the prime minister’s perspective, this was probably a worst-case scenario.

    While Theresa May may not have expected the president to support publicly her path that she’s chosen for taking the United Kingdom out of the European Union, the so-called soft Brexit, she definitely would have been looking for him to very publicly endorse the idea that, once the U.K. leaves the European Union, its biggest trade partner, it can definitely have a very solid trade relationship and trade deal, free trade deal, with the United States.

    The question is, what kind of influence does President Trump have here in the U.K.? You know, he undermined the prime minister, you could say, but will he really change the political landscape when it comes to the almost existential question of how the U.K. exits the European Union.

    And I think the answer to that is, maybe not so much, because, after all, if you think about it, a lot of the people that support a real hard break, the U.K. making a hard break with the European Union, members of the Conservative Party in this country, well, they’re actually, politically speaking, a bit further for the left than, say, the Republicans in the United States.

    In many ways, they’re more like the Democrats in the United States. Yes, it will embolden the marginal powers in the U.K., the people that aren’t in the houses of Parliament in the government, the seat of power behind me here, but it’s not entirely clear that he is going to be able to bring down the prime minister with that interview that he gave before he arrived here, or that he’s really going to be able to change the course of how this country exits the European Union.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    And, Ryan, is it fair to say Europeans see a difference in the president’s approach to foreign policy this year vs. last year?

  • RYAN CHILCOTE:

    You know, I think that what they have found is that his approach to foreign policy is quite similar.

    Last year, of course, they were a little bit surprised. I think they’re less surprised now. And I think the takeaway here is, tactically, they believe that the president, when he is speaking publicly, thinks it’s appropriate and effective to publicly criticize others, even allies, whether they’re allies at NATO or here in the U.K., you know, the prime minister’s government, while being — while playing nice and saying nice things at the same time.

    They have sort of said — decided or learned that that is how he operates. Beyond that, I think that there’s also a feeling that, at the end of the day, this president, strategically speaking, is really motivated by a distaste for the European Union.

    That was very clear when he was at NATO. He talked a lot about trade, the E.U. being unfair when it deals with the United States when it comes to trade. And even here in the U.K., many people will see his criticism of the prime minister’s desire to have a soft break with the U.K., keep many of the elements intact, many people will see that as, well, that is really because he just wants to make the E.U. weaker.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Ryan Chilcote, covering it all for us from London, thank you, Ryan.

  • RYAN CHILCOTE:

    Thank you, Judy.

Listen to this Segment

Latest News