Trump says he has been ‘tougher on Russia than anybody’

US President Donald Trump holds a joint news conference with Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May at Chequers, near Aylesbury, Britain, July 13, 2018. (Reuters)

Tens of thousands of protesters demonstrated in London against the US president, whose four-day visit to Britain has been marred by his extraordinary attack on Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit strategy.

US President Donald Trump on Friday said he had been “tougher on Russia than anybody,” ahead of a summit with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on Monday.

“We have been far tougher on Russia than anybody …. We have been extremely tough on Russia,” he said at a joint press conference with British Prime Minister Theresa May.

He recalled that 60 intelligence officers were expelled from the Russian embassy in Washington in response to a nerve agent attack on a former Russian spy in Britain.

Russia has denied any involvement in the attack.

“We have been very strong on Russia,” Trump told reporters at the British premier’s Chequers country residence, after talks with May.

Trump’s campaign and transition team have been accused of colluding with Russian agents in an effort to influence the 2016 US election against Hillary Clinton.

The US president is due to meet Putin in Helsinki for talks in which he hopes to establish a good personal relationship with his Russian counterpart.

US-Russian relations have suffered from years of disagreement over the Syrian conflict, Russia’s annexation of Crimea and its involvement in eastern Ukraine.

“I’m not going in with high expectations, but we may come out with very surprising things,” Trump said.

The president said he wanted to develop a relationship with Putin, which he said would be “good for Russia, good for everybody.”

Trump claimed he would be going into the meeting with Putin with NATO better financed, more united and resolute.

The US president said he would be discussing Syria, the Middle East, Ukraine and nuclear proliferation.

“That would be a tremendous achievement if we could do something on nuclear proliferation,” he said.

Trump said he did not think Russia would have invaded Crimea if he had been in the White House at the time.

Referring to an ongoing investigation into ties between his election campaign and Russia, he decried a “rigged witch-hunt” that was hurting the United States and its relationship with Russia.

May said the most important thing was that Trump would be going into the meeting with Putin with the 29-strong NATO military alliance united behind him.

“We agree that it is important to engage Russia from a position of strength and unity and that we should continue to deter and counter all efforts to undermine our democracies,” she said.

Trump also slammed the Nord Stream II pipeline that is set to bring gas from Russia to Germany, calling it a “horrible mistake” that would give Moscow power over Berlin.

“It’s a horrific thing being done where you’re feeding billions and billions of dollars from Germany … into the coffers of Russia when we’re trying to do something so that we have peace in the world.”

Trump stands by ‘culture’ criticism of European immigration

Trump pressed ahead with his complaints that European immigration policies are changing the “fabric of Europe” and destroying European culture.

The US president backtracked on the criticism of May that he made in an explosive interview released as he began his visit to the country.

But he reiterated his belief that Europe’s decision to accept migrants from Middle Eastern and African countries is “a very negative thing for Europe.”

Standing next to May at Chequers, the prime minister’s official country estate, Trump acknowledged that his remarks were “politically not necessarily correct.” But he said European countries need to “watch themselves.”

“You are changing culture, you are changing a lot of things,” he said, adding, “You see the same terror attacks that I do.”

Trump was reiterating a position he articulated in an interview released Thursday by The Sun, in which he also criticised May’s handling of Brexit negotiations and said “I think allowing millions and millions of people to come into Europe is very, very sad.”

May quickly rebutted Trump during their joint appearance, saying the UK has a “proud history of welcoming people who are fleeing persecution to our country.”

“Over the years, overall immigration has been good for the UK,” she added. “It’s brought people with different backgrounds, different outlooks here to the UK and we’ve seen them contributing to our society and our economy.”

Critics have faulted the president for using language that echoes white supremacist laments about the loss of white power.

Tens of thousands hold anti-Trump protests in London

Tens of thousands of protesters demonstrated in London against the US president, whose four-day visit to Britain has been marred by his extraordinary attack on Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit strategy.

“#DumpTrump”, “This is the carnival of resistance” and “My mum doesn’t like you! And she likes everyone” read some of the signs held up by protesters as they marched down Oxford Street towards Trafalgar Square.

“No Trump, no KKK, no fascist USA!”, the protesters chanted.

Some protesters banged on pots and pans, others blew on trumpets and many held up orange “Stop Trump” balloons.

One woman wore a pink knitted “pussy hat” at the start of the “Women’s March,” which will be followed later in the day by the main “Together Against Trump” coalition.

“Donald Trump is misogynistic, chauvinistic, homophobic, xenophobic, promotes bigotry … and has tiny little hands!” said one of the participants, 42-year-old Georgina Rose.

Grant White, 32, carried a sign depicting Trump as the Twitter bird symbol wearing a swastika around his arm.

“I am anti-Brexit, anti-Trump. There is a wave of fascism which we have to get rid of,” he said.

Stopping outside May’s residence in Downing Street, protesters whistled and shouted, “Shame on you!”

May was the first foreign leader to visit Trump since his inauguration last year and extended an invitation for him to visit that proved highly controversial.

‘A juvenile in charge of a superpower’ 

Around 20 drag artists joined the protest, starting out from Soho – the historic heart of Britain’s gay community – in flamboyantly colourful attire.

“I think he’s just such a poor representation of what America has to give to the world,” said Joey “Bourgeoisie” Frenette, 27, who moved to Britain eight years ago from Washington, DC.

Decked out in chunky heels and fishnet stockings, a purple tinsel wig, pink lipstick and a dyed green moustache, he added he felt compelled to protest after seeing images of caged children in the US as a result of Trump’s immigration policies.

Choreographer Joshua Hubbard was strutting his displeasure at the president in knee-high red boots, a cravat and plenty of makeup.

“He’s perpetuated so many stigmas,” he said as he marched.

Londoners not protesting and stopping to take in the mass of people, placards and sloganeering seemed supportive of the demonstrations.

“He brings it on himself – it’s like having a juvenile in charge of a superpower,” said construction worker Dan Kelly, 47.

Trump inflatable ‘hilarious’ 

Dawn, 49, came with her 11-year-old daughter Sadie.

“Trump is the man with the biggest ego in charge of the biggest power in the world. He doesn’t have a grasp of what is needed in the world,” the mother said.

Her daughter said, “He doesn’t accept people who have a different religion in his country, where there is big diversity.”

Campaigners elsewhere in London flew a “Baby Trump” balloon, an act of protest approved by London mayor Sadiq Khan, which has proved particularly contentious for Trump and his supporters.

“As an American, I think it’s great. It’s a peaceful way of protesting, and there are a lot of people who agree with it,” said Brett Kirchner, 25, from the US state of North Carolina.

“Back home in the States, there will be some who are very upset about this protest and who think it’s insulting. I have been asked to send photos back though. Not everyone likes Trump,” he said.

Jason Caines, 50, said of the inflatable, “It’s good. It needs to be done because he’s a bigot and a racist. He shouldn’t be president; it should have been Hillary Clinton.”

Paul Fonseca, 23, said, “I think it’s hilarious. It’s an accurate representation of his politics which are so immature. He never enters into adult discussion.”

Source: TRTWorld and agencies