President Trump isn’t going to London after all.
And he’s mad. Steamed. Furious.
Just before midnight on Thursday, Trump wrote on Twitter:
Hmm. Seems a bit odd to cancel a state visit to America’s greatest ally over the sale of a building. Sure, Trump’s a real estate mogul, so getting low-balled probably irks him, but sometimes U.S. presidents have to rise above things like the sale of a U.S. embassy building, you know, for the good of the nation.
What’s more, the decision to relocate the embassy from Grosvenor Square to Nine Elms was made by former President George W. Bush in 2008, not by former President Barack Obama. After a full evaluation, the downtown embassy was deemed too difficult to secure, and Bush decided to build a new embassy from scratch so the latest security measures could be employed.
“We looked at all our options, including renovation of our current building on Grosvenor Square,” then-Ambassador Robert Tuttle said. “In the end, we realized that the goal of a modern, secure and environmentally sustainable embassy could best be met by constructing a new facility.”
No, the sale of the old London embassy doesn’t have anything to do with Trump’s decision to cancel his trip.
The real reason is that Trump was sure to be embarrassed in Britain, first by huge protests (he’s not exactly beloved there), and then by a royal snubbing.
Queen Elizabeth II, who has has met with almost every sitting U.S. president since Dwight Eisenhower, announced last October that she would not be meeting with Trump. And the trip would not be a “state visit” — which brings with it much diplomatic protocol — but instead was downgraded to what they call in diplomacy terms a “working visit.”
No pomp, even less circumstance. No 21-gun salutes, no horse carriage rides into Buckingham Palace, no stately state banquets with dukes and duchesses. Instead, a bunch of guys (and gals) in suits sitting around a table. He would have met at 10 Downing with May, and was invited to cut the ribbon to open the new embassy (Trump likely saw that as tantamount to opening a new used car dealership).
When Prime Minister Theresa May visited the White House last year, she invited Trump for a state visit, but British leaders lashed her for the invite. Speaker of the House of Commons John Bercow grandly announced that he wouldn’t let Trump address the legislative body, as Obama had done.
Things like this — and especially being snubbed by the Queen — really annoy Trump. He knows that Obama and his wife met the queen just months into his term — and he would meet with her three more times. And Obama was feted in a state dinner, so “Why not me?” Trump is no doubt thinking.
But May’s invite prompted a petition to block the visit — nearly 2 million people signed it. “Donald Trump’s well documented misogyny and vulgarity disqualifies him from being received by Her Majesty the Queen or the Prince of Wales,” the petition says.
And Londoners particularly don’t like Trump, who criticized London Mayor Sadiq Khan for his response to the London Bridge and Borough Market terror attack. After the attacks in June, Trump tweeted: “At least 7 dead and 48 wounded in terror attack and Mayor of London says there is ‘no reason to be alarmed!'”
Khan, however, said he was referring to a visible increase in police activity on the streets of London, and seeking to reassure Londoners. And Khan hit back at Trump through a spokesman: “He has more important things to do than respond to Donald Trump’s ill-informed tweet that deliberately takes out of context his remarks urging Londoners not to be alarmed when they saw more police — including armed officers — on the streets.”
Khan was gleeful over the canceled trip, saying: “It appears that President Trump got the message from the many Londoners who love and admire America and Americans but find his policies and actions the polar opposite of our city’s values of inclusion, diversity and tolerance.
“His visit next month would without doubt have been met by mass peaceful protests. This just reinforces what a mistake it was for Theresa May to rush and extend an invitation of a state visit in the first place. Let’s hope that Donald Trump also revisits the pursuit of his divisive agenda.”
Trump’s decision is probably a smart one — any trip to London would likely have brought embarrassment. But don’t buy the claim that he’s not going because he’s unhappy about the sale price of a building. Even for Trump, that one’s just too farfetched.