This article titled “Donald Trump cancels London visit amid protest fears” was written by Heather Stewart Political editor, and David Smith in Washington, for The Guardian on Friday 12th January 2018 09.49 UTC
Donald Trump has cancelled a visit to Britain next month to open the new US embassy in London, amid fears of mass protests.
The president claimed on Twitter that the reason for calling off the trip was his displeasure at Barack Obama having sold the current embassy for “peanuts” and built a replacement for bn (£750m). “Bad deal,” he wrote.
But the embassy’s plan to move from Mayfair to Nine Elms in London was first reported in October 2008, when George W Bush was still president.
The London mayor, Sadiq Khan, said Trump had “got the message” that many Londoners staunchly opposed his policies and actions.
“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,” Khan said on Friday.
“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.”
The prime minister invited Trump for a state visit when she became the first world leader to visit the president in the White House a year ago. Activists immediately pledged to stage protests and MPs have said they would not give the president the opportunity to address parliament.
Asked about Trump’s cancellation, a Downing Street spokesman repeated the government’s longstanding position that “an invitation has been extended and accepted, but no date has been set”.
The White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said: “The invitation was made and has been accepted we are still working to finalise a date.”
Instead of a state visit, it had been expected that Trump would make a brief, less formal “working visit” in February to cut the ribbon on the embassy in south-west London, and hold meetings with May. Officials had also been examining plans for the president to meet the Queen without the pomp of a full-blown state banquet.
Government sources suggested Washington had signalled that the secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, would instead open the embassy.
Trump confirmed on Twitter late on Thursday night that the trip was off. “Reason I canceled my trip to London is that I am not a big fan of the Obama Administration having sold perhaps the best located and finest embassy in London for “peanuts,” only to build a new one in an off location for 1.2 billion dollars,” he wrote just before midnight local time. “Bad deal. Wanted me to cut ribbon-NO!”
Citing security and environmental reasons, the US state department agreed to sell the current embassy building in Grosvenor Square to the Qatari Diar Real Estate Investment Co, which plans to turn it into a luxury hotel. Estimates put the site’s value at £500m before it was made a listed building, which would have diminished the value because of restrictions on development.
British relations with the president hit a low late last year when May criticised his decision to retweet videos posted by the far-right extremist group Britain First.
Trump responded by tweeting directly to the prime minister that she should focus on tackling domestic terrorism.
The government was so concerned about his decision to share the videos that Britain’s ambassador to Washington, Sir Kim Darroch, took the rare step of raising the issue directly with the White House.
Trump’s ambassador to London, Woody Johnson, subsequently insisted: “The president and the prime minister have a very, very good relationship. I know the president admires and respects the prime minister greatly.”
May’s government has been keen to strike up a close relationship with the Trump administration despite his erratic behaviour, because of Britain’s desire to strike a swift trade deal with the world’s largest economy when it leaves the European Union.
Trump has sparked alarm among diplomats by repeatedly entering into Twitter spats with key public figures, including the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, to whom he recently boasted about the size of the US nuclear arsenal.
The White House has been rocked in recent days by the revelations in an explosive book, Fire and Fury, by the US journalist Michael Wolff, who suggested senior figures in the administration questioned the president’s fitness for office.
Asked about the revelations last weekend, May said she believed they were not serious, and Trump was a man making decisions “in the interests of the United States”.
Trump faced fresh criticism on Thursday night after the Washington Post reported that he had questioned planned changes to immigration rules, asking colleagues why the US had to welcome arrivals from “shithole countries”.
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Prince Philip, husband of Queen Elizabeth II, has died
Buckingham Palace has announced that The Duke of Edinburgh has died.
Philip Mountbatten, the rakish naval officer who captured the heart of a young Elizabeth Windsor and became the lifelong consort to the British queen, has died aged 99.
The death ends the longest marriage of a reigning monarch in British history, an enduring alliance that outlasted the Cold War, war and peace in Northern Ireland and the painful divorces of three of their four children.
Reacting to the death, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said;
“Prince Philip earned the affection of generations here in the UK, across the Commonwealth & around the world.
He was the longest serving consort in history & one of the last surviving people in this country to have served in WW2.”
Prince Philip never held the official title of Prince Consort, but he was Queen Elizabeth II’s closest confidant, most reliable political advisor and the undisputed master of the royal household for more than six decades.
Philip was known equally as a curmudgeon and a charmer who could quickly put nervous guests at ease with an easy oneliner.
The Queen, on the event of their golden wedding anniversary in 1997, said of her husband: “He has, quite simply, been my strength and stay all these years.”
The Duke is survived by his wife, Queen Elizabeth II, and his children Charles, Prince of Wales; Anne, Princess Royal; Prince Andrew, Duke of York and Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex.
While Elizabeth presided over affairs of state, Philip championed dozens of charities, including the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, which has promoted selfreliance, physical development and other personal accomplishment for more than 6 million youths all over the world.(more…)
Biden Expected To Repeal Military Trans Ban Tomorrow
The Biden administration is expected to repeal the ban on transgender Americans from serving in the military, multiple people informed of the decision told CBS News. The announcement is expected as soon as Monday, one senior Defense official and four outside advocates of repealing the ban told CBS News.
The senior Defense official told CBS News the repeal will be through executive order signed by President Joe Biden. The announcement is expected to take place at a ceremony with newly-confirmed Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, who will order the Pentagon to go back to the policy enacted in 2016 by former Defense Secretary Ash Carter that allowed transgender Americans to serve openly.
The White House did not respond immediately to a request for comment.
The new order will direct the branches of the military to outline an implementation plan.
The ban was announced by former President Trump via a tweet in July 2017. The ban took effect in April 2019 and barred transgender Americans from enlisting in the military.
In 2014, it was estimated there were around 15,500 transgender military members serving, according to a study by the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law.
Biden frequently repeated on the campaign trail his promise to repeal the ban.
Austin said at his Senate confirmation hearing last week that he planned to repeal the ban.
“I support the president’s plan or plan to overturn the ban,” Austin said on Tuesday when asked by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, “I truly believe, Senator, that as I said in my opening statement, that if you’re fit and you’re qualified to serve and you can maintain the standards, you should be allowed to serve. And, you can expect that I will support that throughout.”
Trump Pardons Steve Bannon In One of His Final Acts As 45th President
(CNN)— President Donald Trump has decided to pardon his former chief strategist Steve Bannon, in a last-minute decision made only hours before he is scheduled to depart the White House for a final time.
Officials cautioned CNN that Trump’s decision was not final until he signed the paperwork. Trump told people that after much deliberation, he had decided to pardon Bannon as one of his final acts in office.
Bannon’s pardon would follow a frantic scramble during the President’s final hours in office as attorneys and top aides debated his inclusion on Trump’s outgoing clemency list. Despite their falling out in recent years, Trump was eager to pardon his former aide after recently reconnecting with him as he helped fan Trump’s conspiracy theories about the election.
It was a far cry from when Trump exiled Bannon from his inner circle after he was quoted in a book trashing the President’s children, claiming that Donald Trump Jr. had been “treasonous” by meeting with a Russian attorney and labeling Ivanka Trump “dumb as a brick.” Those statements from Bannon drove Trump to issue a lengthy statement saying he had “lost his mind.”
“Steve Bannon has nothing to do with me or my presidency,” Trump said at the time.Things shifted in recent months as Bannon attempted to breach Trump’s inner circle once again by offering advice before the election and pushing his false theories after Trump had lost.
Since Trump’s election defeat, the President has leaned further into his expansive pardon powers — granting pardons to his first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, longtime ally Roger Stone and former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, among others.
Among Trump’s pardons earlier in his term were those for former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio, right-wing commentator Dinesh D’Souza and financier Michael Milken.