Last updated: Saturday, July 14, 7:52 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time
Donald Trump’s U.K. visit was never going to be smooth, given that the American president is reviled by many Britons, including tens of thousands who plan to take to the streets in protest, but he ensured that Friday would be a day of high tension by attacking his host, Prime Minister Theresa May, in comments published as he dined with her Thursday night. The Intercept will be providing updates here on the progress of Trump’s visit/tantrum as it unfolds throughout the day on Friday. The latest update appears at the top of the post.
Late Friday, having dodged protesters all day in England, Donald Trump was greeted at his Turnberry golf resort in Scotland by a Greenpeace activist who paraglided directly over his head trailing a banner that read: “Trump: Well Below Par.” The scene was captured on video by the activist group and journalists.
Donald Trump's arrival with the First Lady at his Turnberry golf course in Scotland has been met with a protest from the air. A Greenpeace paraglider propelled past him with a banner saying 'Trump well below par' - it was in protest at his stance on green issues. Watch video here pic.twitter.com/xvhLByfnYo— Zora Suleman (@ZoraSuleman) July 14, 2018
Paul Danaher, the BBC’s North America bureau editor, noted that the Trump White House continues to be confused about the fact that Scotland is part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
Two days earlier, as he prepared to visit Britain, Trump himself mistakenly identified Ireland as part of the U.K.
My colleague Ryan Gallagher has spotted some creative anti-Trump signage in Trafalgar Square, where the “carnival of resistance” to the American president has officially concluded.
Earlier some of the marchers who took to the streets explained to Lindsey Hilsum of Channel 4 News why they were there.
The evening rally was addressed by Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the opposition Labour party.
Corbyn’s predecessor, Ed Miliband, was also in the crowd.
Later it evolved into what looked and sounded very like a party.
Meanwhile in Scotland, where Trump is due to spend the weekend golfing at his Turnberry resort, protesters prepared to give the American president the welcome he deserves.
One of them, Janey Godley, achieved viral fame in 2016 when she protested Trump’s visit to Turnberry the morning after the Brexit referendum holding a placard with a simple message.
She is currently preparing her encore.
We have the right to a peaceful protest and it will be peaceful and creative -Turnberry 9am Saturday 14th July. Bring songs, signs and be respectful to the police Scotland attending - they never asked to protect this clackwanker, like Brexit they got dragged into it. pic.twitter.com/Muhuw0JJKQ— Janey Godley (@JaneyGodley) July 6, 2018
Stephanie Grisham, the White House director of communications for First Lady Melania Trump, and a former deputy press secretary for the president, has spent part of her day arguing on Twitter that Donald Trump’s visit to Scotland on June 24, 2016 — the day after the Brexit referendum — actually took place on June 23, 2016, the day of the referendum.
After Trump made the false claim on Friday that he had “predicted Brexit” during a trip to Scotland for the reopening of his Turnberry golf resort the day before the 2016 referendum, several reporters pointed out that he had, in fact, arrived in Scotland the day after the vote. As I mentioned earlier, there is copious documentation of that visit from two years ago showing that it took place on June 24 — including a tweet from Trump posted after he arrived. My own report on the outcome of the referendum, written after the votes were counted on the morning of June 24, 2016, included Trump’s tweet and date-stamped video of him commenting on the result.
Despite this, after Trump’s false claim was debunked, Grisham responded to one reporter who was there that day, BBC North America Editor Jon Sopel, insisting that the event at Turnberry had taken place before the referendum, not after it.
Nope. I have photos. I also have a newspaper from the morning after Brexit. I remember sitting in a pub the night before, watching the results come in.— Stephanie Grisham (@StephGrisham45) July 13, 2018
As other reporters tried to convince Grisham that she was wrong by drawing her attention to the date — June 24, 2016 — on one of her own tweets of the event, the columnist Alex Massie reflected on how strange and maddening it all was.
Trump just arrived at Windsor Castle to meet the Queen, who was kept waiting for him. He then inspected the royal guard with her, and, according to BBC News, committed a protocol breach by walking ahead of the monarch.
The Queen is also on the minds of protesters in Trafalgar Square.
My colleague Ryan Gallagher reports that the crowd in the square chanted “say it loud, say it clear, Donald Trump is not welcome here.”
Ryan adds that Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the opposition Labour party told the protesters in Trafalgar Square that Trump’s treatment of immigrants “breaches every international convention” and called instead for “a politics of unity… recognizing the strength and the good of each of us, however poor, however marginalized.”
My colleague Ryan Gallagher, reporting from the protest in London, says that one police officer estimated the size of the crowd at 60,000, although that figure could just reflect the number of people who said they were planning to attend on Facebook.
Another police source told the BBC the figure was close to 100,000.
Police unofficially reckon 100,000 or so in London— Nick Eardley (@nickeardleybbc) July 13, 2018
The organizers, meanwhile, put the attendance at 250,000.
London’s Metropolitan Police service shared an aerial image of Trafalgar Square, saying that it was approaching capacity.
The online star of what the protest leaders call a “carnival of resistance” still appears to be the blimp of Trump as a wailing baby that flew outside Parliament this morning.
At a news conference earlier on Friday, Trump was asked about his comments in an interview with The Sun, a British tabloid newspaper, in which he said that “allowing millions and millions of people to come into Europe is very, very sad,” because immigrants had “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.”
The American president, the son and grandson of immigrants who leads a nation populated almost entirely by the descendants of immigrants, doubled down on those comments, calling immigration “a very negative thing for Europe,” and claiming that immigrants were responsible for a decline in security. The evolution of the formerly monoethnic nation states of Europe into multicultural societies more like America, Trump said, was a bad thing. “I don’t think it’s good for Europe and I don’t think it’s good for our country,” he said.
The British prime minister, who, during her time as home secretary, was responsible for a crackdown on undocumented immigrants, disagreed. “The U.K. has a proud history of welcoming people who are fleeing persecution to our country,” she said, “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. And over the years, overall, immigration has been good for the U.K. It’s brought people with different backgrounds, different outlooks here to the U.K. and we’ve seen them contributing to our society and to our economy.”
Trump made similar comments at the NATO summit in Brussels in Thursday, in which he also attributed the Brexit referendum and his own election to a fear of immigrants, and praised the current Italian government for also describing immigration as a threat.
Trump is currently flying by helicopter back to the U.S. ambassador’s residence in London to rest for a bit before heading off to meet the Queen and then go to Scotland for a weekend of golf and self-promotion at a resort he owns in his mother’s homeland. As he does, he might have the chance to view the streets packed with protesters against him.
My colleague Ryan Gallagher is reporting for The Intercept from the protest in London, and he has been hearing from some of those taking part about what motivated them.
Human rights activist Peter Tatchell is here, fresh from a trip to Russia where he was arrested. "The march is a msg of solidarity to the American people who oppose Trump," he says. "Trump's regime is a menace to democracy & human rights not just in the US but around the world." pic.twitter.com/LRbvUWT8Jf— Ryan Gallagher (@rj_gallagher) July 13, 2018
“This march is a message of solidarity to the American people who like us oppose Trump,” the human rights activist Peter Tatchell said. “His regime is a menace to democracy and human rights not just in the US but around the world. We stand with people in every country who want a fair, just world. We stand with all those fighting to prevent climate destruction, which President Trump is refusing to act against. This protest shows a collective outpouring of will by British people across all sectors of society. People are really angry that President Trump is breaking down global solidarity. Pursuing a militaristic strategy overseas and at home failing to act to protect the rights of women, African Americans and LGBT people.”
A number of participants in the march, which culminates in a rally in Trafalgar Square, have also shared sound and vision.
Trump also said he apologized to May when he met her this morning for the negative comments about her featured in The Sun, complaining that his subsequent praise for her was omitted (it was not), distorting the tone of the exchange.
Rare: Trump says he came in and said "I want to apologize to you" to May this morning. "Don't worry, it's only the press," she responded.— Annie Karni (@anniekarni) July 13, 2018
Tom Newton Dunn, the political editor of The Sun who conducted the interview and is present at the news conference, confirms that the paper did print his praise as well as his criticism.
The Sun editor also shares a photograph of May holding Trump’s hand as the two descended steps to the news conference outside Chequers, her country retreat.
May has been vilified by Trump’s detractors in Britain for holding the president’s hand when she visited the White House in January 2017 to invite him to visit the U.K. She reportedly explained that Trump confessed to a fear of steps and asked to hold her hand.
As Trump speaks, British television is showing his remarks in split-screen, with images of tens of thousands of protesters gathering in central London.
Remarkably, Trump just repeated the false claim he made to The Sun, that he predicted the outcome of the Brexit referendum during a visit to his Scottish golf course “the day before” the vote on June 23, 2016. In fact, as his own Twitter feed proves, his visit came the day after the referendum, when the result was known.
Just arrived in Scotland. Place is going wild over the vote. They took their country back, just like we will take America back. No games!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 24, 2016
Bizarre. @realDonaldTrump says he came to Turnberry the day before Brexit and he told everyone that he thought Brexit would happen. And that he predicted correctly what would happen the next day. Umm. Not true. He came the day after Brexit. I was there. June 24 pic.twitter.com/bVRxpMJTKY— Jon Sopel (@BBCJonSopel) July 13, 2018
At a joint news conference with May, Trump denies that he criticized the prime minister in his interview with Rupert Murdoch’s newspaper, The Sun, which posted audio of him criticizing the prime minister. Trump dismisses the report based on his interview as “fake news,” and claims to have a complete recording of the conversation which will prove him right.
Trump goes on to say that he did indeed say that May’s rival, Boris Johnson, “would be a great prime minister,” but claims he was set up by The Sun, which prompted him to say it.
The president goes on to admit that he did give May “a suggestion” about how to negotiate with the European Union that she ignored, but he would never presume to give her “advice.” In the audio posted by The Sun, Trump can be heard saying: “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.”
As protesters assembled in central London and across the United Kingdom to protest Trump’s visit and policies, a giant inflatable cartoon blimp of the president as an angry, phone-wielding baby took to the sky outside the British Parliament in Westminster.
When the British prime minister welcomed Trump in a grand ceremony at Blenheim Palace on Thursday night, she had no idea that he had just given an interview attacking her to The Sun, Rupert Murdoch’s tabloid newspaper, which is the closest equivalent to Fox News in the U.K.
Before the gala dinner was over, however, May was reportedly briefed on Trump’s comments, which were soon posted online with audio. In the interview, Trump suggested that May’s plan to remain closely aligned to the European Union after Britain’s exit from the bloc “will probably kill the deal” she hoped to strike with the United States for free trade.
The president also criticized May for ignoring his negotiating advice — “I told her how to do it,” Trump said, “she didn’t listen to me” — and accused her of betraying British voters, saying: “The deal she is striking is a much different deal than the one the people voted on. It was not the deal that was in the referendum.”
He went on to suggest that May’s political rival, Boris Johnson, who resigned as foreign minister this week and could try to topple her, “would be a great Prime Minister.”
Asked on Friday at the start of talks with May if he regretted his remarks, Trump rolled his eyes and pointed at the reporter with derision while shaking his head at his aides, including John Bolton, his combative national security adviser.
Trump’s effort to undermine the more moderate May comes immediately after his attacks on Germany at the NATO summit, and what looks like a concerted effort to aid the far-right there in unseating Chancellor Angela Merkel over her openness to immigrants.
The president also returned to an old favorite, attacking London Mayor Sadiq Khan as soft of terrorism. David Lammy, who represents the opposition Labour party in parliament, suggested that Trump’s motivation was clear: Khan is Muslim.
In other ways, the interview was like a greatest hits collection, with Trump claiming that immigration posed an existential threat to European culture — “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.” — and telling an easily provable lie about having “predicted Brexit.”
Recalling a visit to one of his Scottish golf resorts in 2016, Trump said: “I was cutting a ribbon for the opening of Turnberry — you know they totally did a whole renovation, it is beautiful — the day before the Brexit vote. I said, ‘Brexit will happen.’ The vote is going to go positive, because people don’t want to be faced with the horrible immigration problems that they are being faced with in other countries…. I said Brexit will happen, and I was right.”
Trump, in fact, visited Scotland for the Turnberry ribbon cutting the day after the Brexit referendum, when the result was already known, as The Intercept reported way back in the mists of two years ago.
In his remarks that day, Trump also connected the Brexit vote to inflated fears over immigration, claiming that Britain’s membership in the European Union meant that British voters were “angry over people coming into the country and taking over.”