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Live from London: Donald Trump's Flying Circus

President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump

President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump with Britain's Queen Elizabeth II on Monday at Buckingham Palace in London. Credit: AFP/Getty Images/Alastair Grant

Flail, Britannia

As Air Force One approached London to fulfill one of his long-held desires — the pomp, pageantry and honor of a state visit with Queen Elizabeth — Donald Trump got roiled.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan — among the two-thirds of Britons who don't like the president — wrote a column lamenting the red-carpet treatment for "one of the most egregious examples of a growing global threat" to liberal democratic values from "the far right." So Trump tweeted that Khan was "a stone cold loser who should focus on crime in London, not me." 

Trump also heralded his visit by sticking his nose into Britain's ongoing political crisis. He praised Boris Johnson, a rival of departing Prime Minister Theresa May, as a good choice to succeed her. The Associated Press wrote that it was not clear if that endorsement would help or hurt Johnson's chances.

The president also urged Britain to "walk away" from talks with the European Union on the terms for Brexit after May's efforts — previously second-guessed by Trump — repeatedly failed to win support in Parliament.

Trump noted in a tweet: “Haven’t seen any protests yet, but I’m sure the Fake News will be working hard to find them." That's likely because he was shuttled around London largely by helicopter and missed such sights as the image of a giant red baseball cap emblazoned with “USS John S. McCain” projected on a building. Some other traditional ground-level trappings of a state visit, such as a gold carriage procession down the Mall, were not included for Trump.

But Trump seemed pleased with the royal treatment he did receive, including lunch with the queen, tea with Prince Charles and a grand state dinner at Buckingham Palace. The 93-year-old monarch used her toast to emphasize the importance of international institutions created by Britain, the U.S. and the other victorious allies after World War II. That was a subtle poke at Trump, a critic of NATO and the UN. Trump called the queen a "a great, great woman.” 

Not present was the Duchess of Sussex, formerly known as Meghan Markle, whose remarks against Trump during the 2016 campaign, related to him by an interviewer last week, drew the reaction: "She was nasty." British officials said she was absent because she's on maternity leave, though she's planning to attend a public event on Saturday. Her husband, Prince Harry, appeared briefly earlier when the queen exchanged gifts with Trump.

Still on rile-up

Soon after his arrival in London, Trump was distressed (as he has been on other overseas visits) to find that CNN "is the primary source of news available from the U.S." He was so upset that he called for a boycott of CNN's parent company to force the network to make its coverage more favorable to him.

He tweeted: "I believe that if people stoped using or subscribing to @ATT, they would be forced to make big changes at @CNN, which is dying in the ratings anyway. It is so unfair with such bad, Fake News!"

Trump’s tweets had no obvious immediate impact on the value of AT&T, which is based in Dallas and is considered the world’s largest telecommunications company with more than 260,000 employees, according to The Washington Post. The company's stock rose 1.7% Monday on what was a weak day overall for Wall Street.

Opportunity knock for de Blasio

Bill de Blasio, New York's 6-foot-5 mayor, still needs to crane his neck skyward to see the 1% mark in the 2020 Democratic primary polls.

So any attention from Trump is welcome, whether it's the president's Sunday remark that London's mayor is the “twin of de Blasio, except shorter,” or Trump's more expansive tweet Monday: "Kahn [Trump spelled it wrong] reminds me very much of our very dumb and incompetent Mayor of NYC, de Blasio, who has also done a terrible job - only half his height."

"#ConDon takes another shot at me. But I’m a total @SadiqKhan stan [rough translation from hip-hop: total fan], so consider any comparison a compliment," de Blasio tweeted. In another try at going insult for insult, de Blasio wrote: "@realDonaldTrump is Putin’s twin, only his presidency will be shorter."

Janison: Assange's motives

There's no question that Hillary Clinton was the main target of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in 2016, but a little-publicized narrative within special counsel Robert Mueller's report shows it wasn't because he was in sync with the views of Donald Trump and other Republicans. He just thought they'd be less effective at projecting U.S. power around the world, writes Newsday's Dan Janison.

"We believe it would be much better for GOP to win ... Dems + Media + liberals would then form a block to rein in their worst qualities," Assange — long regarded as a leftist — wrote associates in November 2015, but "with Hillary in charge, GOP will be pushing for her worst qualities" and "dems+media+neoliberals will be mute."

In the months that followed, officers of the Russian military agency GRU offered Assange an alliance and the fruits of Russian hacking from Democrats' computer files. Though Trump proclaimed in 2016 that "I love WikiLeaks," a visit to the London prison where Assange now resides is not on his itinerary.

Good for the family business

Elaine Chao's role as Trump's transportation secretary has boosted the profile of her family's business interests, which include shipping operations in China and have extensive connections with the Chinese government, according to a New York Times investigative report.

Though she doesn't hold a stake in the shipping company, Foremost Group, Chao and her husband, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, have received millions of dollars in gifts from Chao's father, who used to run the company, along with political donations from her family, the report said.

A plan by Chao to bring relatives along on an official trip to China in 2017 alarmed an official at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, who raised an urgent “ethics question" with the State Department. Chao, McConnell and family members from the shipping company denied any impropriety.

Jared: Didn't do birther control

Trump son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner gives few interviews. After a sit-down he had with "Axios on HBO," it's easy to understand why.

Pressed on whether Trump's past questioning of former President Barack Obama's U.S. birth was "racist," Kushner responded: “Look, I wasn’t really involved in that." Interviewer Jonathan Swan persisted: “I know you weren’t. Was it racist?” Three more tunes, Kushner said he wasn't involved. He added of Trump: "I have not seen anything in him that is racist.” (Video clip here.)

Asked whether he agreed with the president's calls for curtailing abortion rights, Kushner responded, "I was not the person who was elected. I’m here to enforce his positions.” 

Would he reach out to the FBI if Russians contacted him seeking a meeting like the infamous Trump Tower session during the 2016 campaign? "I don't know."

Discussing his forthcoming Middle East plan he hopes to sell to Israel and the Palestinians, he hedged on whether the latter were capable of governing themselves. “The hope is that over time, they can become capable of governing," he said.

What else is happening:

  • Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, describing for a private gathering of Jewish leaders the uncertain prospects of Kushner's Middle East peace plan, said “one might argue” that the plan is “unexecutable” and it might not “gain traction." The Washington Post obtained an audio recording of the meeting.
  • The Democratic-led House plans to vote June 11 on whether to hold Attorney General William Barr and former White House counsel Don McGahn in contempt of Congress for failing to comply with congressional subpoenas.
  • George Nader, a one-time Trump campaign intermediary who figured in Mueller’s Russia probe, was arrested Monday on child pornography charges, reports Newsday's John Riley. According to Mueller’s report, Nader brokered a meeting in the Seychelles between Trump supporter Erik Prince and a Russian banker with ties to Vladimir Putin.
  • Mexico launched a counteroffensive Monday against Trump's threat to impose tariffs next week if it doesn't stop the flow of migrants. Mexican officials warned that the tariffs not only would hurt the economies of both countries but also could cause a quarter-million more Central Americans to head north.
  • At acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan's direction, the Pentagon has told White House officials to stop politicizing the military in the wake of the uproar over a Trump administration order to have the USS John McCain kept from Trump's view during the president's recent visit to Japan, The Associated Press reported.
  • The pastor of a Northern Virginia church where Trump made an unscheduled visit over the weekend has apologized to his congregation after praying for the president, which upset some of them, Politico reported. Pastor David Platt of McLean Bible Church said he had no intention of endorsing the president, his policies or the Republican Party.

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