President Trump Arrives In Britain For A State Visit

Jun 3, 2019
Originally published on June 5, 2019 3:46 am
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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

President Trump is in Great Britain today for his first official state visit, and it could be, in a word, awkward. He is set to meet with the prime minister, Theresa May. She is preparing to leave her job amid Britain's Brexit chaos. London's mayor is already looking forward to President Trump leaving his job. Sadiq Khan has been a vocal critic of the president, and the president has wielded his own insults in Khan's direction. The mayor spoke with Sky News.

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SADIQ KHAN: This president won't be there forever. And one of the things that people will look back on about our approach to this president is that, though, I think they'll regret that our government, this prime minister, didn't stand up more to him.

MARTIN: And before Air Force One even touched down at Stansted Airport, the president was already stirring things up. NPR's Frank Langfitt is covering it all from London. Frank, let's start off with what the president has been saying as he gets ready to begin this very important state visit.

FRANK LANGFITT, BYLINE: Well, he fired off from Twitter a criticism of Khan. He said Khan had done a terrible job as mayor of London; called him a stone-cold loser; compared him to, in the opinion of the president, the very dumb and incompetent mayor of New York City, Bill de Blasio. One difference, Trump said, between the two mayors, he said that Khan is only half the height of de Blasio. That's not true; Mayor Khan here is 5-foot-6.

MARTIN: And this is not a new...

LANGFITT: No.

MARTIN: ...Battle of wills.

LANGFITT: (Laughter) No, they've been battling now for close to two years. And this started, I think, when Mayor Khan criticized President Trump's majority - ban on people from seven majority Muslim nations. Mayor Khan is also a Muslim.

MARTIN: So has the mayor weighed in on the president's latest remarks?

LANGFITT: He has not, but his spokesman has. And he said that these comments should be beneath the president of the United States and that the mayor is representing the progressive values of London and the United Kingdom and warned this - that President Trump is, quote, "the most egregious example of a growing far-right threat around the globe."

MARTIN: So what's the point of this state visit? I mean, what's the president going to do?

LANGFITT: Well, I think the first thing is - today, it's going to be pomp and circumstance. President Trump has brought his family. There is going to be a state dinner with the queen in Buckingham Palace and tomorrow will meet with the prime minister, who, as you point out, is a lame duck. Not expecting a lot on the policy front, but I'm sure there'll be discussion about Huawei, the very successful but controversial Chinese telecom company that the U.K. has said it would like to include in development of its 5G network.

On Wednesday, the president will then go to Portsmouth and onto Normandy to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the D-Day invasion. Of course, that's when the U.S. and the U.K. fought side by side to defeat the Nazis.

MARTIN: I mean, this isn't the - this is the president's first state visit, but he has been to the U.K. before, and he did not get a lot of love from Londoners. Are we expecting the same thing this go-round?

LANGFITT: I think it will not be a warm welcome at all, and I think that this - the reignition of the Khan-Trump Twitter war will probably drive just more people into the streets here. Khan is a popular mayor. He's had his ups and downs. There has been a problem with knife crime in the city and other cities in the United Kingdom, recently.

But I think as Khan was alluding to in that - his spokesman was in that statement, this is a very diverse, cosmopolitan city, and I think you're going to see a lot of people come out because they don't like President Trump's policies and manner. We're expecting some big protests probably this afternoon or sizable ones, I should say - people banging pots and pans outside of Buckingham Palace during the dinner tonight. And tomorrow, there'll be a return of the baby blimp, the Trump baby blimp - it was an effigy of President Trump crying as a baby in diapers.

Now, a couple of weeks ago, I was actually down around Parliament, and I was talking to David Lammy. He's a member of parliament with the Labour Party. And he said, as Khan is saying, that he feels that Trump is undermining not just U.K. but U.S. values.

DAVID LAMMY: I've opposed this visit. I think it's wrong. People will be taking to the streets not because they're standing against America - on the contrary - it's because they're standing with the best traditions of America.

MARTIN: OK, the state visit is expected to last three days, and we will be watching, as will Frank Langfitt. Thanks so much, Frank.

LANGFITT: Happy to do it, Rachel. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.