UPDATED: President Trump shook hands with the queen, insulted the mayor of London and complained about having to watch CNN, all within a few hours of landing in Britain on Monday for a three-day state visit that will see him dine at Buckingham Palace, meet business leaders and be safely shielded from the protesters who promise to turn out in droves.
Air Force One landed just before 9 a.m. at Stansted Airport, outside London, carrying the U.S. leader and First Lady Melania Trump. They were greeted by British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, one of more than a dozen Conservative Party lawmakers jockeying to succeed Prime Minister Theresa May, who is stepping down. A helicopter then whisked the Trumps to Central London.
Trump stirred up controversy in the U.K. even before he landed, denying that he described Meghan Markle as “nasty,” despite a clear audio recording of him doing so, and publicly supporting former London Mayor Boris Johnson to replace May as premier. He also referred to current London Mayor Sadiq Khan, with whom he has sparred in the past, as a “stone cold loser” in a tweet posted minutes before touching down.
He then complained that CNN is “the primary source of news available from the U.S.” in Britain, where Fox News stopped broadcasting in 2017.
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On Trump’s schedule Monday was a private lunch with Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace before a glittering state banquet in the evening, featuring the kind of pomp and pageantry at which the British excel. He is also expected to meet two of the queen’s sons: Prince Charles, the heir to the throne, who will host Trump for tea, and Prince Andrew, who will accompany the president and the first lady to Westminster Abbey, where they will lay a wreath on the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior.
There is no encounter expected between Trump and Markle, the Duchess of Sussex, who is on maternity leave following the birth of her and Prince Harry’s first child, Archie. During the 2016 presidential campaign, Markle spoke out against Trump, calling him “divisive” and a “misogynist.”
In an interview with the Sun tabloid before this week’s state visit, Trump said of Markle, “I didn’t know that she was nasty,” though he added that he thought she would make a “very good” princess in the British royal family. Trump later denied having made the “nasty” comment, tweeting that it was “made up” by the “Fake News media.” But the Sun has posted an audio recording of the interview in which the comment can clearly be heard.
Trump follows in President Obama’s footsteps in being accorded a full state visit to the U.K., which entails gun salutes and other marks of honor that Trump is known to crave. But many Britons, including senior politicians, oppose the visit, whereas Obama was welcomed enthusiastically and the queen was known to have a warm relationship with him and Michelle Obama. When the British government announced two years ago that it had extended the state-visit invitation to Trump, a petition against it was signed by more than 1 million people.
A protest against Trump is scheduled for Tuesday. Last July, during a more informal visit, tens of thousands of demonstrators marched through London in opposition to Trump’s presence. A giant balloon depicting the U.S. leader as a diapered baby floated over Central London and onto newspaper front pages around the world.
Among the issues Trump and May are expected to discuss is his administration’s campaign against the Chinese technology firm Huawei. They will also talk about Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union, which Trump is known to support.