December 04, 2019 08:10
U.S. President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump attended a reception late Tuesday at Buckingham Palace hosted by Queen Elizabeth on the sidelines of the NATO summit, where leaders are marking 70 years of the alliance.
This is the third time the Trumps have met the monarch. They met at a Buckingham Palace banquet during a state visit in June, and during a tea at Windsor Castle in July of 2018.
Prior to Tuesday's palace reception, the president and the first lady briefly met with the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall at their official residence at Clarence House.
As in his previous visits to Britain, anti-Trump protests broke out. Protesters marched from London's Trafalgar Square towards the palace as the evening reception took place.
Among the protesters led by the Stop Trump Coalition, are doctors, nurses and staff of the country's National Health Service concerned about the potential risks to the British health service system raised by a U.S.-Britain trade deal.
◆ Election Meddling
But earlier on Tuesday, Trump promised to stay out of Britain's general election, scheduled to be held on Dec. 12. "I have no thoughts on it. It's going to be a very important election for this great country, but I have no thoughts on it," Trump said, speaking alongside NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.
But the U.S. president could not resist giving his opinion about British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, saying, "Boris is very capable and I think he'll do a good job."
In a recent interview, Johnson warned Trump against giving him an endorsement, saying it was best "for neither side to be involved in the other's election campaigns."
In October, Trump praised the prime minister as "the exact right guy for the times" and said that the Labour Party's Jeremy Corbyn would be "so bad" as prime minister.
World leaders rarely violate diplomatic norms and wade into other countries' elections.
Trump also said the United States has no interest in Britain's National Health Service. "We have absolutely nothing to do with it and we wouldn't want to if you handed it to us on a silver platter," he said.
Trump's interest in the privatization of the NHS has been a key focus of the British election, with Corbyn accusing Johnson and the Conservative Party of including it in a post-Brexit deal with the United States. Johnson has denied the accusation.
Trump and the British prime minister are meeting in group events with other NATO leaders including at Buckingham Palace and a meeting afterwards at 10 Downing Street, but it is still unclear whether the two will have a one-on-one meeting during the two-day summit. Other than his meeting with Stoltenberg, French President Emmanuel Macron and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Tuesday, Trump is scheduled to meet German Chancellor Angela Merkel Wednesday.
In between meetings with leaders, the U.S. president also met with supporters in a closed press event. Tuesday's fundraiser was expected to raise $3 million for his re-election campaign.
◆ Prince Andrew
Prince Andrew did not join the Royal Family during the reception with NATO leaders. The queen's son stepped back from his royal duties last month due to his association with Jeffrey Epstein, the American financier found dead in a jail cell in August after being held on sex trafficking charges.
Virginia Roberts Giuffre, who said she was trafficked by Epstein, claimed that she was directed to have sexual encounters with Prince Andrew.
Trump declined to weigh in on the controversy, saying Tuesday, when asked by a reporter, "I don't know Prince Andrew. It's a tough story."
Since Trump's statement, old photos of Donald Trump and Prince Andrew at Trump's Florida resort, Mar-a-Lago, have resurfaced. Trump also met Andrew during his last U.K. visit in June.
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