WASHINGTON (CBSNewYork/AP) — President Donald Trump pledged support Friday for what he called a “most special relationship” between the U.S. and Britain.
Trump said in a joint press conference with British Prime Minister Theresa May that it was an honor to have her at the White House as his first official visit from a foreign leader.
“The special relationship between our two countries has been one of the great forces in history” for justice and peace, the president said.
“The relationship based on the bonds of history, of family, of kinship and common interests,” May added.
The Trump team is said to be eager for the kind of relationship Ronald Reagan had with Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s, CBS2’s Tony Aiello reported.
The two leaders posed for cameras near a bust of Winston Churchill, which was returned to the Oval Office on Inauguration Day, one week ago. Churchill’s mother was born in the United States in Brooklyn. Trump noted his own mother was born in the U.K.
“My mother was born in Scotland! Stornoway, which is serious Scotland,” he said.
He said the U.S. “respects the sovereignty of the British people and their right of self-determination” and said both countries understand “that governments must be responsive to everyday working people.”
“A free and independent Britain is a blessing to the world and our relationship has never been stronger,” he said.
Trump also said he expects to get along well with May because they both enjoy being around other people. He quipped: “I’m not as brash as you might think.”
Trump and May met in the Oval Office before they both delivered a statement and took questions from reporters.
May said Trump reaffirmed both countries’ “unshakeable commitment” to the NATO military alliance.
Trump had rattled European allies by suggesting NATO is “obsolete” and that the United States might not come to the aid of countries that don’t meet targets for their own defense spending.
But May said the two agreed it is important for member countries to “invest properly to face our shared challenges together.”
She also said she extended an invitation to visit England on behalf of the queen and that Trump has accepted.
May’s visit comes a day after Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto called off his own trip to Washington, planned for next week, amid wrangling over who will pay for Trump’s planned wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
Trump said he had a “friendly call” with the Mexican president Friday, adding that the two would be “working on a fair relationship.”
“We are going to renegotiate our trade and we’re going to renegotiate other aspects of our relationship with Mexico and in the end, I think it will be good for both countries,” Trump said.
Trump said the leaders will try to mend fences, but still took a strong stance.
“The United States cannot continue to lose vast amounts of business, vast amounts of companies and millions and millions of people losing their jobs,” he said. “That won’t happen with me.”
“They’ve made us look foolish. We have a trade deficit of $60 billion with Mexico. On top of that, the border is soft and weak, drugs are pouring in, and I’m not going to let that happen,” he added.
The Kremlin also announced that Russian President Vladimir Putin is set to speak by phone with Trump on Saturday. Putin congratulated Trump on his victory shortly after his election, but the Kremlin says they haven’t spoken since then.
Trump was asked if he supports ending sanctions against Russia for its incursion into Ukraine. He said it’s “too early” to discuss that.
Also Friday, the president visited the Pentagon for a ceremonial swearing in of the new Defense Secretary, retired General James Mattis.
Trump has said he supports waterboarding and other harsh methods when interrogating terrorists, but Mattis does not. The president said he will defer to the secretary.
“I don’t necessarily agree, but I would tell you that he will override, because I’m giving him that power,” Trump said. “He’s an expert, highly respected. He’s the ‘general’s general.'”
The president had a packed day Friday, but was already looking ahead to his second week in Washington. He teased an upcoming announcement of a Supreme Court nominee expected next week.
“I think the person I pick will be big, big. I think people are going to love it,” Trump said.
He’s vowed to replace the late Justice Anthony Scalia with another conservative judge.
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