"We pledge our lasting support to the most special relationship," President Trump told reporters after his private meeting with Theresa May on Friday
“Today the United States renews our deep bond with Britain,” President Trump told reporters. “We pledge our lasting support to the most special relationship.”
He called the United States and the U.K.’s relationship “one of the great forces in history for justice and for peace.”
May opened by congratulating Trump on his “stunning election victory” last November, and said she conveyed to him on Friday an invitation from Queen Elizabeth for Trump and his wife, Melania, to make a state visit to Britain later this year — which he accepted, May said.
The Queen was expected to issue a formal invitation to Trump after the inauguration. She traditionally issues such an invite for a state visit to the sitting U.S. president once during their four or eight-year term. She has met with every American president since she assumed the throne in 1952 — except for Lyndon B. Johnson.
While presidents sometimes make multiple visits to the U.K. for official state business, a state visit hosted by the Queen usually includes a stay at Windsor Castle and a dinner attended by members of the royal family.
In May’s prepared remarks for Friday’s press conference in a jam-packed East Room, the prime minister seemed to take care to box Trump in — publicly — on support for NATO, the international military alliance that Trump has repeatedly, controversially criticized as “obsolete.”
From her lectern beside Trump’s, May told reporters that in their private Oval Office talks she and Trump agreed on an “unshakable commitment to this alliance.” And, looking over at Trump, she added that he had told her he was “100 percent behind NATO.” Trump, meanwhile, said nothing.
The two leaders then took turns calling on American and British journalists.
The first one that May called on, from the BBC, bluntly told Trump: “You’ve said before that torture works; you’ve praised Russia,” and noted that the president called for a ban on Muslims plus punishment for abortion. “For many people in Britain,” the journalist continued, “those sound like alarming beliefs. What do you say to our viewers at home who are worried about some of your views and worried about you becoming the leader of the free world?”
Trump turned to May and joked: “This was your choice of a question. There goes that relationship!”
To the journalist, he addressed only the issues of torture (he would listen to his advisers) and Russian President Vladimir Putin, whom Trump has consistently praised as a great leader.
“As far as Putin and Russia, I don’t say good, bad or indifferent. I don’t know the gentleman. I hope we have a fantastic relationship. That’s possible. And it’s also possible that we won’t,” Trump said.
The two presidents are scheduled to speak by phone on Saturday.
“I’ve had many times where I thought I’d get along with people and I don’t like them at all,” Trump said. “So, Theresa, we never know about those things, do we? But I’ll tell you one thing: I will be representing the American people very strongly. “
Asked at one point if there were any topics on which May and Trump disagreed, the former responded, “I can confirm that I’ve been listening to the president, and the president has been listening to me.”
“That’s the point of having a conversation and a dialogue … the point of the special relationship is that we’re able to have that open and frank discussion,” May asserted.
Further, when prodded if they’d “found anything in common personally yet,” Trump said only, “I think we’re gonna get along very well. It’s interesting because I am a people person. I can often tell how I’m going to get along with someone very early.”
May seemed in agreement, stating, “I think we have already struck up a good relationship.”
“One of the things that we have in common is that we want to put the interests of the working people right up there centerstage,” she noted.
Last summer, May – a member of Parliament for Maidenhead in Royal Berkshire – became prime minister, replacing David Cameron, who took on the role in 2010.
The meeting marked the president’s first with another foreign leader since beginning his presidency last week.
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Ahead of the big meeting, the office of the White House press secretary misspelled May’s given name three separate times in an official press release sent out on Friday. They quietly corrected the error shortly after, sending another version of the release with the “h” added back into May’s first name.