The PM and the President: what they said – and what they really meant

Our instant translation service for the joint news conference held in the White House by Theresa May and Donald Trump

John Rentoul
Friday 27 January 2017 20:31 GMT
Theresa May congratulates Donald Trump on 'stunning election victory'

What Donald Trump said: This is our first visit. So it’s a great honour.

What he meant: Great honour for her. And not a bad trophy for me, either.

Trump: The special relationship between our two countries – by the way, my mother was born in Scotland, in Stornoway, serious Scotland. We pledge our lasting support to this most special relationship.

I’ve got some words someone drafted for me. Great words. I have the best people. But I get a bit bored just reading them out. They want to know about my mother.

Trump: That is why America respects the sovereignty of the British people.

Brexit was my victory too. That is why you are here, Madam Prime Minister.

What Theresa May said: Thank you for inviting me so soon after your inauguration, and I’m delighted to be able to congratulate you on what was a stunning election victory.

What she meant: This is what I call a win-win. I get to meet the President. He gets to meet a foreign leader who not only is properly respectful of him but speaks English. Talking of respectful, I must remember how thin-skinned he is about Hillary winning more votes than him. True about it being a stunning victory, though.

May: May I convey Her Majesty the Queen’s hope that President Trump and the First Lady will come to the United Kingdom for a state visit.

Donald Trump says 'there goes that relationship' in response to BBC's Laura Kuenssberg's question

God save Her Majesty, eh? What a great card for me to play. He loves this stuff.

May: The President has mentioned foreign policy.

So when I talk about how we are already working together to fight Daesh, which is what American officials call it, I don’t look as if I am telling him what his foreign policy ought to be. Here is what it ought to be.

May: Our talks will be continuing later, and I’m sure we’ll discuss Syria and Russia.

I am having lots of time with the President. Lots and lots of important time. And in that time we shall discuss all those awkward subjects that we haven’t discussed yet that you journalists want to ask awkward questions about, so I can’t answer them now.

May: Mr President I think you confirmed that you are 100 per cent behind Nato.

It was a bit hard to pin you down because you kept going off on a tangent about how wonderful the phone technology in the White House is, but I’ll nail this down in public and our officials can sort out the details later.

May: The US is the single biggest source of inward investment to the UK.

Everything about America is big. Especially its President.

May: The President and I are ambitious to build on this. And so we are discussing how we can take forward immediate high-level talks about a trade deal between the US and the UK.

The President has no idea what this means but he knows that his core vote doesn’t think that imports from England are a threat to its jobs. So he’s happy to let his officials talk to my officials about doing a trade deal.

Trump: We look to have a great relationship with all countries, ideally. You know, if we can have lunch, as we’ve just had, we can have some really interesting talks, very productive talks. Same with Russia.

I like Theresa but I’m not sure I’m going to like Vladimir.

Trump (after Laura Kuenssberg’s question): This was your choice of a question – there goes that relationship.

I thought I had trouble with the failing media in my country. Sheesh. Theresa and I do have something in common after all.

May: I’ve been listening to the President and the President has been listening to me. We’ll carry on after this press conference. The point about a special relationship is that you’re able to have that open and frank discussion.

The President has been listening to me.

Trump: We have great general who has just been appointed Secretary of Defence. General Mattis. He has stated he doesn’t necessarily believe in torture. I don’t necessarily agree, but I’m telling you he will override because I’m giving him that power. So I’m going to rely on him.

So you can take all your difficult questions for my friend Theresa about waterboarding and stuff them under your fingernails. I’m not going to do it after all.

Donald Trump says General Mattis and him disagree on torture

May: The relationship between the US and Mexico is a matter for the US and Mexico.

Brexit means Brexit.

Trump: I happened to be in Scotland at Turnberry when Brexit happened. I said Brexit was going to win. I was scorned in the press for that prediction. I was scorned. Lo and behold the following day it happened.

I can see the future. I have a mystic communion with the common person, not just in America but in Britain. I was scorned but I am a prophet not just in my own land but in other lands too.

Trump: I think Brexit is going to be a wonderful thing for your country.

This is Theresa May. She is a very good Prime Minister. Vote for her.

May: You asked what we had in common. It is that we want to put the interests of ordinary working people right up there centre-stage.

I don’t know what fool said “opposites attract” on the plane over. We are as one. We both have a mystic communion with the common person, in America and in Britain.

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