PRESIDENTIAL TRIP | Trump: Relations with May 'strong’

10:18 a.m.

ELLESBOROUGH, England (AP) — In a fresh bout of diplomatic whiplash, President Donald Trump denied Friday he had criticized Prime Minister Theresa May and declared the U.S.-U.K. relationship “the highest level of special” — not long after lobbing thunderous broadsides against her.

Trump’s pomp-filled visit to the United Kingdom has been overshadowed by widespread protests and an explosive interview in The Sun in which he blasted May, his host, blamed London’s mayor for terror attacks against the city and argued that Europe was “losing its culture” because of immigration.

“I didn’t criticize the prime minister. I have a lot of respect for the prime minister,” said Trump, who allowed that he did apologize for some of his comments. But he blamed his favorite scapegoat — the so-called “Fake Media” — for skipping over his praise of May in a piece that published Thursday just as the prime minster played host at an opulent welcome dinner at a country palace.

The president then urged reporters to listen to a full recording of the interview, which he said would give the full picture.

May, for her part, praised the strength of the U.S.-U.K. bond. But in a gentle rebuke, said: “It is all of our responsibility to ensure that trans-Atlantic unity endures.”

As for her relationship with Trump, she said: “We are friends.”

Trump was greeted by massive protests across Britain, including tens of thousands of demonstrators who filled the streets of London alongside a giant balloon that flew over Parliament on Friday depicting him as a cell-phone-toting angry baby in a diaper.

In a frenetic news conference at Chequers, May’s official country house, an unrestrained Trump blamed his predecessor for Russian aggression in Crimea, placed fair trade at the center of Britain’s efforts to leave the European Union, defended his beliefs that immigration has damaged Europe and repeatedly jousted with television correspondents’ whose coverage he found critical.

Interviewed before he left Brussels for the U.K, Trump accused May of ruining what her country stands to gain from its Brexit vote to leave the European Union. He said her former foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, would make an “excellent” prime minister, speaking just days after Johnson resigned his position in protest over May’s Brexit plans.

Trump added that May’s “soft” blueprint for the U.K.’s future dealings with the EU would probably “kill” any future trade deals with the United States.

“If they do a deal like that, we would be dealing with the European Union instead of dealing with the U.K., so it will probably kill the deal,” Trump told the paper.

Trump, who has linked his own election to the June 2016 referendum in which a slim majority of British voters supported leaving the EU, complained, “The deal she is striking is a much different deal than the one the people voted on.”

He also told the tabloid that he’d shared advice with May during Britain’s negotiations with the EU and she ignored it.

Tens of thousands of people gathered in London for a series of demonstrations against the president’s visit. Marchers gathered near BBC headquarters in central London before walking through the center of the city to Parliament — where earlier the 20-foot baby blimp hovered overhead.

10:07 a.m.

LONDON (AP) — President Donald Trump says Theresa May is an “incredible woman” who is “doing a fantastic job” as the British prime minister.

Trump commented as he sought to soften the blow after he criticized aspects of her leadership in an interview published Thursday by a British tabloid.

Trump says he’s gotten to know May much better over several days of meetings and socializing this week and says: “I think she’s a terrific woman.”

Trump spoke at a news conference with May following meetings at her official country estate outside of London.

Asked to rate U.S.-U.K. relations, Trump gave them the “highest level of special.”

Trump also reiterated that he thinks Boris Johnson would be a great prime minister. Johnson recently resigned as British foreign minister to protest May’s handling of Britain’s exit from the EU.

But Trump and May are expressing differing views on the benefits of immigration to Europe.

Trump said immigration has been “very bad” for Europe and is changing the culture of the continent.

May says the United Kingdom has a “proud history” of welcoming people to its country, and immigration has been “good” for the U.K.

May says people of different backgrounds have contributed to her country’s society, but it’s important to have a “set of rules” when it comes to immigration.

The two leaders were asked about Trump’s interview with The Sun newspaper in which he argued that Europe is “losing its culture” because of immigration.

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