US president Donald Trump has confirmed he will not travel to the UK to open the new American embassy next month, blaming the decision to relocate the building to an “off location”. Hitting out at former US leader Barack Obama, Mr Trump wrote on Twitter early on Friday that he thought the embassy’s move from Grosvenor Square in the prestigious Mayfair district of central London to Nine Elms, south of the Thames, in a 1.2 billion dollar (£886 million) project was a “bad deal”. He wrote: “Reason I cancelled my trip to London is that I am not a big fan of the Obama Administration having sold perhaps the best located and finest embassy in London for ‘peanuts’, only to build a new one in an off location for 1.2 billion dollars. Bad deal. Wanted me to cut ribbon-NO!” Prime Minister Theresa May was the first world leader to visit Mr Trump in the White House and the US president accepted at the time an invitation for a state visit. But that idea was fairly swiftly pushed into the long grass, given the scale of expected protests and opposition within the UK. A petition against a state visit gained more than a million signatures last year. Mr Trump was then reported to be considering a “working visit”, with some publications reporting that a date had been set for the end of February. The visit was due to coincide with the opening of the new US embassy. Writing on Twitter at 4.57am on Friday, Mr Trump said he thought the embassy’s move from Grosvenor Square was a “bad deal”.
Despite Mr Trump publicly blaming his predecessor Obama, the US announced its plans to move to the new embassy site in October 2008 – when George W Bush was in the White House. The new building will open on January 16. On the embassy web page about the project, it said: “The project has been funded entirely by the proceeds of the sale of other US Government properties in London, not through appropriated funds.”
Mr Trump had also been scheduled to hold talks with Mrs May in No 10, with February 26 and 27 marked in the diary. Downing Street had hoped to confirm the dates this week. The president was not due to meet the Queen until a full state visit at a later date. But now Mr Trump has decided to postpone even the scaled-down February visit. Rex Tillerson, the secretary of state, will instead represent the US at the embassy opening. In December, US Ambassador Woody Johnson said he was looking forward to welcoming the president when he visited, adding: “I think he will be very impressed with this building and the people who occupy it.” He said the new embassy was a “signal to the world that this special relationship that we have is stronger and is going to grow and get better”. Mr Trump’s decision not to head across the Atlantic comes despite Mrs May saying that a future visit was still on the cards last week. A Downing Street spokesman said: “Our position is that an offer for a state visit has been extended and accepted.” Sources claimed that the lack of “bells and whistles” and royal involvement in next month’s planned visit might have discouraged Mr Trump.
Mrs May controversially extended the offer of a state visit – officially on behalf of the Queen – when she became the first world leader to meet Mr Trump in the White House following his inauguration last year. Since then, however, the president has indicated he does not want to take up the invitation if he is going to face mass demonstrations and it had been expected he could make a low-key working visit rather than a trip which involved all the trappings of a state occasion.
‘Trump has thrown his toys out of the pram’: Reaction to cancelled visit
Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, said that it appears Trump has “finally got that message” that “many Londoners” would not welcome the US President to the capital. He said: “Many Londoners have made it clear that Donald Trump is not welcome here while he is pursuing such a divisive agenda. It seems he’s finally got that message. “This reinforces what a mistake it was for Theresa May to rush and extend an invitation of a state visit in the first place.”
Ed Miliband, the former Labour leader, suggested on Twitter that planned protests had dissuaded the president from visiting the UK, saying: “Nobody wanted you to come.”
Others, including David Lammy, the Labour MP for Tottenham, was clearer in his views on Twitter:
Liberal Democrat Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Jo Swinson said: “News that Trump has thrown his toys out of the pram and cancelled his trip to the UK will be welcomed by all of us who reject his abhorrent views. “But it’s a disappointing sign of how weak May’s leadership is that she wasn’t brave enough to call the visit off herself. “The Prime Minister should be ashamed that she was so keen to roll out the red carpet to a man who spreads hate and division at every turn, and goes out of his way to undermine British values.” Labour MP Stephen Doughty said on Twitter that Trump “wanted the red carpet treatment and cheering crowds”, but was instead facing “big protests”.
Tom Tugendhat, chairman of the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, suggested that Mr Trump was more aware of opposition in the UK than in other countries he had visited because it was expressed in English. “I think it’s a great shame; the United States is very much one of our closest allies, but the alliance isn’t based on who lives in the White House and who lives in Number 10, it’s based on shared values, common interests and absolute commitment to the international rules-based system which we have both spent the best part of 70 years upholding through Nato, through the United Nations and through various other treaty organisations around the world,” he told Today. “While I think it’s a shame, I think – if I’m honest – it more reflects the fact that other people criticise in French, Italian, Korean and other languages and we criticise in English, and it’s much easier for him to read English.”
Nigel Farage suggests ‘mass protests’ behind Trump’s decision
Former Ukip leader Nigel Farage, an ally of the US president, suggested that concerns about protests might have been the real reason for the visit’s cancellation. Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, he said: “Well, he is the real estate guy. I can’t comment on that. He has made rather a lot of money over the years doing it. “It is disappointing. He has been to countries all over the world and yet he has not been to the one with whom he is closest. “I would say it is disappointing. Maybe, just maybe, Sadiq Khan, Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour party planning mass protests, maybe those optics he didn’t like the look of.” Speaking on the same programme, Labour MP Chuka Umunna said it was “very welcome he is not coming any more”, adding: “He runs counter to British values.”
How May and Trump fell out over anti-Muslim videos
Mrs May and Mr Trump fell out spectacularly in November over his retweeting of anti-Muslim videos posted online by the deputy leader of the far-right Britain First group, Jayda Fransen. At the time, the PM said Mr Trump was “wrong” to retweet the videos, and the US president hit back at Mrs May on Twitter by telling her to focus on “destructive radical Islamic terrorism” in the UK, rather than on him.
Donald Trump asks why US accepts immigrants ‘from s——- countries’
Donald Trump has reportedly expressed frustration at the United States’ immigration policy, asking a White House gathering of politicians why the US accepted people from “s——- countries”, reports Harriet Alexander. Mr Trump convened Thursday’s meeting to discuss reforming immigration policy, and one of the politicians inside the Oval Office suggested that a deal could be reached if Mr Trump agreed to restore protection for immigrants from Haiti, El Salvador and African countries. “Why are we having all these people from s——- countries come here?” the president responded, according to two people who spoke to The Washington Post. The paper said he was referring to African countries and Haiti. He then reportedly suggested that the United States should instead bring more people from countries like Norway, whose prime minister he met on Wednesday. The White House did not deny his remark, which triggered widespread outrage, but issued a statement saying Mr Trump supports immigration policies that welcome “those who can contribute to our society.” His remarks reportedly left the assembled politicians “taken aback”, the paper said, with Lindsey Graham, the Republican senator for South Carolina, and Richard Durbin, Democratic senator for Illinois, among those in the room.
Trump claims to have developed positive relationship with Kim Jong-un
Mr Trump also claimed that he has developed a positive relationship with North Korea’s leader. “I probably have a very good relationship with Kim Jong-un,” Mr Trump told The Wall Street Journal, despite there being no formal contact between US and North Korean officials in decades. “I have relationships with people. I think you people are surprised.” Asked if he has spoken with Mr Kim, Mr Trump replied: “I don’t want to comment on it. I’m not saying I have or haven’t. I just don’t want to comment.” The president has called the nation’s leader a “maniac,” a “bad dude,” mocked him as “short and fat,” and referred to him repeatedly as “rocket man.” Mr Kim in response has warned he would “tame the mentally deranged US dotard with fire”. Mr Trump told the paper, however, that his Twitter insults were simply part of his game plan. “You’ll see that a lot with me,” he said about combative tweets. “And then all of the sudden somebody’s my best friend. I could give you 20 examples. You could give me 30. I’m a very flexible person.” The president said he approved of North Korea’s participation in next month’s Olympic Games, and acknowledged that Pyongyang may be trying to separate Washington and Seoul. “If I were them, I would try,” he said. “The difference is I’m president, other people aren’t. And I know more about wedges than any human being that’s lived.”
British visitors to the US may be asked for social media usernames and passwords and their phone’s address book under new border checks being considered at US airports. The Trump administration is considering “extreme vetting” scenarios in which even tourists from US allies such as the UK, France and Germany are subject to intense security checks, according to the Wall Street Journal. “We will do it when we think there’s a reason to do it,” US Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly told a US Senate committee hearing last week. “The vast majority of people will not be questioned in that way.” However, he did not elaborate on the plans. Donald Trump, who was elected on a promise to strengthen US borders, has already overseen tighter controls since taking office. They include a temporary ban on travellers from six majority Muslim countries without visas, which has been blocked, and a ban on laptops and other large electronic devices as carry-ons from certain countries, which has been followed by the UK.
Mr Kelly previously floated the prospect of asking for passwords in February. “We want to say for instance, ‘What sites do you visit? And give us your passwords,’ so that we can see what they do on the internet. If they don’t want to give us that information then they don’t come,” he told the congressional Homeland Security Committee. Border officials have the ability to refuse entry if tourists do not comply, and it is unclear what recourse those who do not want to hand over their details have. While those who have had to hand over their details could take measures such as changing their password, or turning on two-factor authentication, which requires a code on a mobile phone to log in, this could simply lead to heightened suspicion. The idea of forcing travellers to hand over passwords more routinely was first floated in January, shortly after Mr Trump’s inauguration, but its extent was unclear. There have already been several examples of visitors being forced to hand over their phones and passwords in recent months. In February, while Mr Trump’s travel ban was in force, a British BBC journalist, Ali Hamedani, had to hand over his phone which was then scoured for political views. A coalition of 131 non-governmental organisations, experts and trade associations have opposed the idea of asking for passwords, saying it “create[s] an intense chilling effect on individuals”. There have also been fears that other countries could reciprocate. The US Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) told The Guardian: “All international travellers arriving to the US are subject to CBP inspection. This inspection may include electronic devices such as computers, disks, drives, tapes, mobile phones and other communication devices, cameras, music and other media players and any other electronic or digital devices. “Keeping America safe and enforcing our nation’s laws in an increasingly digital world depends on our ability to lawfully examine all materials entering the US.”
I can’t say I am afraid. I am numb. I feel am impending sense of doom—but it’s a kind of doom I have already lived through. From seventh grade through 12th grade, I was tortured nearly every day I went to school. The common term for this is bullying, but that’s not what it is. It is torture. Just as John McCain suffered indecencies and physical abuses as a prisoner of war, so did I in my youth. If you hate me for making that comparison, you hate me for saying what is true. I was a happy, popular and active kid. When I reached puberty, my life changed. Before I knew myself that I was gay, others picked up on my mannerisms. My peers harassed me, demanding to know if I was gay. I didn’t know. My childhood best friend Nick McKinney stopped being a friend; he, along with a pack of neighborhood kids rode their bikes into me, threw things at me, called me faggot as I walked home pretending that this was not happening. If there was no empty seat on the schoolbus, I had to squat in the aisles. No one would let me sit next to them, and Betty, the blue-shadowed bus driver, would not drive until I squatted. At school, I sat near the teacher hoping for some kind of protection as fellow students called me faggot, flicked my ears and kicked my legs under the desk. I allowed the ringleader of the abuses, Ian Kelly, who went on to found a multi-million dollar clothing company, to cheat from my tests in biology and chemistry classes. All of this in front of teachers. I gravitated in hallways toward any adult who I hoped would be a port in the storm. From seventh grade until I graduated from high school, only one single adult ever intervened on my behalf: a business teacher who held me after following a particularly brutal class in which several of my peers relentlessly called me an ugly zitfaced faggot. She told me that I will grow into my appearance and myself, and that life will change after high school for the better. I will never forget her kindness—even recognizing that her response was inadequate, as the abuse carried on until I graduated from high school in 1996. My own grandmother, who always had been a doting, loving, spoiling figure suddenly didn’t seem to love me anymore. Nothing made sense anymore. Throughout my teen years, I felt unworthy of living. I was smart; science, English and art came easily to me. My mother let me stay home from school when I couldn’t bear to go—and thank God for her, because she saved my life. After high school, I found out that the world is kinder outside of those cinder-blocked walls. And in the late ‘90s, the world coincidentally began a major revolution. Thanks to the influence of Will and Grace, Queer as Folk and all that followed, average people realized that LGBT people are just…people who deserve to be treated with decency.
I discovered later in life that my grandmother resented post-puberty me because she had a sort of post-traumatic stress disorder. Her first husband, who moved her from Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania to Washington, D.C. just before World War II, turned out to be gay. She grew up in the Catholic church. The church refused to annul the marriage because it refused to accept homosexuality—and so my grandmother had no choice other than to divorce her first husband. As a result, she was excommunicated. She lost it all: church (not faith), husband, her reputation. She married my grandfather, a brilliant man haunted by his own demons and alcoholism, and her life took a direction she never planned it to take. Witnessing me grow into a gay man triggered my grandmother’s trauma, and she resented me—until we got to know one another again in the years leading up to her death. On her death bed, literally the evening she died as I was leaving the room, she asked me to embrace her and she told me that she always has been proud of me and always will be. I never expected that relationship to mend, and it did because my grandmother and I came to know one another as people—but also because the public attitude toward homosexuality changed. She couldn’t pretend to herself that LGBT people are evil anymore because it had become commonly accepted that we are not.
Our vice president-elect, Mike Pence, is the same kind of person who populated my middle school and high school. I can’t say whether he is one of the abusers who called me a faggot, who kicked me, flicked my ears, pinched and punched me in the locker room, and who ultimately caused me to read the suicide textbook “The Final Exit” and stockpile pills throughout my youth as an emergency escape hatch. I can say that he is now the vice principal of the school: he is the authority who not only ignores but who actively encourages abuses against people because of their sexuality. I am not afraid, exactly, but I do have trepidation about speaking out about this publicly. But I have been through this and I know how it goes. Mike Pence advocates conversion therapy. Make no mistake: Conversion therapy is torture. It involves electrocuting and drugging LGBT people to make them suffer while looking at homosexual pornography in order to “convert” them to heterosexuality. Not only has it been proven not to convert people, but it causes severe physical and psychological trauma and potentially can result in serious mental disorders. Teenagers have committed suicide in desperate moves to avoid ongoing conversion therapy. In the event a gay man, as an example, were coerced into either believing or pretending that he had been “converted” in order to stop the torture, the best-case scenario would be his entering into a marriage under false pretenses with a woman who otherwise could have found a loving partner. It is a crime against humanity. Science has proven conclusively that it does not work. Yet, under the influence of Vice President-Elect Pence and a fully Republican Congress and likely Republican-leaning U.S. Supreme Court, conversion therapy could become mainstream and supported by law if not codified in law. How did this happen? How did we get here? Conversion therapy is a blatant human-rights violation and a sheer demonstration of hatred. It is a hate crime. I survived six years of psychological terror and physical abuses, sanctioned by my peers and by authorities, throughout my youth. At that time, I had been convinced that something about me was “bad” and that I deserved it. I know better now, and I will not abide by it.
LGBT people and our allies must be vigilant as a new regime takes over our country. This is not a joke, and there is no evidence at this time that suggests fearing the worst—that our government would commit inhumane crimes against its own law-abiding people—is unreasonable. I have lost more faith in the decency of the American people this week than I knew I had. Because of what I went through when I was young, and because I have seen how quickly attitudes changed toward acceptance, I know how quickly those attitudes can revert with a little peer pressure. I know how cruel people can be without a second thought. LGBT people and our allies must not give a millimeter or else this administration may take 666 miles. We also must ally ourselves with all other marginalized populations because, from a practical standpoint, greater numbers equals greater security—but more importantly because all of us are human beings and all of us are at a very real risk of being confronted by overt state-supported hate crimes, and these things usually happen in waves, one targeted population at a time. We are all in this together, and we have to be ready to fight for our souls.