British Prime Minister Theresa May was welcomed by President Donald Trump in his first news conference since his inauguration on Friday. Theresa May is the first world leader to meet President Trump since he assumed the presidency.
Friday’s news conference proved that Trump’s news conferences will be very different, his approach during the conference was not as combative or colorful as he can be. However, that’s not a bad thing, he committed no gaffes during the encounter and that will satisfy his aides at the end of the boisterous first week in power.
Compared to May, Trump was less polished. However, Trump has made an asset out of the fact that his style is totally different from conventional politicians. Trump stuck to the plainspoken approach that works best for him, even as commentators sneer it.
During the news conference, the first British reporter to ask a question was Laura Kuennsberg of BBC who suggested that Britons would find Trump’s views alarming. Amusingly, Trump turned to May, asking her whether that her choice of a question, amid the laughter, Trump added that there goes that relationship.
In a surprising comment, Trump ceded the torture issue to his Defense Secretary. After being asked about his views on torture, he said that he would allow his Secretary of Defense, retired General James Mattis to override him. This followed Trump’s remarks after the interview earlier this week in which he said that he believes that torture absolutely works.
Trump’s stance on torture is a nifty move if taken from a political level, it allows Trump to avoid walking away from his own position, yet shields his administration from the opprobrium it would receive if it reintroduced torture. This also avoided embarrassing May since under British law, the UK armed forces and intelligence agencies cannot take part in operations in which torture is used by allies.
Trump also discomforted allies on Russia, when asked if he was considering easing sanctions on Russia, Trump did not push back hard on the idea as he said that it was very early to be talking about a change, which suggest that he’s open minded about such a change.
May on the other hand made it clear that the British government wants to see the Minsk Agreement fully implemented adding that the sanctions should continue until the Minsk Agreement is fully implemented. The agreement was intended to end fighting near the Ukrainian-Russian border.
It’s worth noting that Trump’s broader assertion that great relationship with Russia would be a tremendous asset will stoke further unease in Europe.
President Trump did his best to help the British PM as he affirmed the most special relationship between the U.S. and the UK. He also accepted an invitation to make a state visit to the United Kingdom later this year. Adding that him and May would have a fantastic relationship.
May on the other hand congratulated Trump on his stunning election victory, a comment that pleased President Trump. May’s arrival in Washington came as the UK prepares to leave the European Union although a strong relationship with the U.S. is all the more important. However, excessive closeness to Trump is politically risky for her since Trump is viewed with lots of skepticism by the chattering classes and the British Media.