ABC: Trump considering visiting Britain later this week to show solidarity on terrorism
Somehow two things are simultaneously true. One: There is plainly zero chance of this happening. Two: Jon Karl and ABC thought it was credible enough to mention it to a national television audience.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So what’s the White House strategy for taking on what is going to be certainly blockbuster [Comey] testimony on every network?
KARL: It certainly will be blockbuster testimony. There is clearly a sense of that here at the White House. But, George, for all of the talk of setting up a big war room in the West Wing to deal with this, none of that has been put in place whatsoever. You saw Corey Lewandowski and David Bossie, veterans of the campaign, have been here at the White House. I’m told them neither one of them are anywhere near coming in and are unlikely, in fact, to come in anytime soon. So there isn’t much of a structure in place to have rapid response to Comey.
I think what you’re going to see, though, is an effort to deflect. You’re seeing that in the president’s response to the London terror attacks. They’re going to talk about infrastructure week this week, about getting — reviving his plan for an infrastructure bill. And there is some discussion, George, among the president’s aides about possibly taking a trip to London at the end of the week to show solidarity with the people of London against terrorism. That’s just in the infancy stage but there is some discussion among the president’s aides of (INAUDIBLE).
Minor problem one: UK security is already stretched thin from the raft of terror attacks. No doubt they’re consumed at the moment with tracking down people connected to last night’s jihadis for fear that there’s a larger cell in motion. Imagine imposing the added burden on them of providing security for the president of the United States. Even if they can manage it, Trump would take endless heat for diverting police resources at a fraught moment.
Minor problem two: At last check, Trump was extremely unpopular in the UK. A poll taken there in March had his approval rating at 18/60. Another poll conducted this week found support among Brits for the Paris climate accord from Trump just withdrew at 52/16. Trump has postponed a visit to the UK once already this year for fear that he’d be received with mass protests, and British MPs who despise him have debated whether he should be allowed to address Parliament or be invited to visit at all. Solidarity with an ally in crisis is a noble goal but the gesture might not be greeted that way by most British. Instead Trump might be treated as a lightning rod for “divisiveness.”
Minor problem three: Just to compound the last problem, Trump and his “social media director” tweeted this at London’s mayor this morning:
To which the mayor replied:
Not a terrific prelude to a solidarity visit. Why take a swipe at your prospective host if you’re hoping to be his guest soon?
Minor problem four: Jon Karl’s telling you right upfront here that the visit is really just an idea they had to try to distract from Jim Comey’s testimony before Congress on Thursday. That risks nullifying the one true benefit of doing this, building goodwill for the United States among the British people. If Trump’s trip comes to be seen by them as little more than an opportunistic way to push bad domestic news off the front page, it risks making local opinion of him worse, not better.
Not-so-minor problem five: Uh, on top of everything else, the UK is holding its parliamentary elections on Thursday. The country will be consumed with the results in the aftermath amid the latest developments on terror plots. Trump wading into all of that feels like a recipe for discord. Even the suggestion that he might visit imminently creates a political problem for Theresa May, who had the friendliest White House visit with Trump of any head of state so far. At least one British poll has May’s Tories just a single point ahead of far-left kook Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour. The last thing May needs now is a litmus test about her feelings towards Trump in the form of how receptive she is to a proposed visit.
Even if all of those problems were resolved, I doubt it’d be logistically possible for British security to pull together the resources they’d need to protect an unpopular foreign head of state in the span of a few days. So why is the White House having this “discussion”? If he wants a Comey distraction, he should hold a few rallies Thursday-Friday-Saturday.