In his first White House meeting with a prominent foreign leader, Donald Trump asked Theresa May: “Why isn’t Boris Johnson prime minister? Doesn’t he want a job?”
At the time, the notoriously ambitious Johnson was foreign secretary. He became prime minister two years later, in 2019, after being forced to resign on May.
May’s response to the non-diplomatic question is not recorded in Confidence Man: The Making of Donald Trump and the Breaking of America, a new book by New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman that will be published next week. The Guardian obtained a copy.
Eagerly awaited, Haberman’s book has been followed extensively. Sensational stories surfaced include shocking examples of Trump’s racism and transphobia and his attempt to order the bombing of a drug lab in Mexico.
Trump’s presidency would begin, escalate and end in chaos, but in January 2017, Britain’s May was seen making a significant diplomatic breakthrough by being the first foreign leader to visit Trump at the White House.
Describing the meeting, Haberman cited “extensive notes of discussion” as she reports that “for May, it was impossible for Trump to focus on either issue”.
The new president, Haberman writes, brags about the White House and talks about both the size of the crowd for his inauguration and the Women’s March, a major national protest against him.
Trump also treated May for a discourse on abortion, a highly divisive issue in the US but less so in Britain.
“Abortion is such a difficult issue,” Trump said without hinting. “Some people are supporters, some people are supporters. Imagine if some tattooed animal raped your daughter and she got pregnant?”
Haberman says that Trump pointed to his vice president, Mike Pence, “she’s really hard on abortion”, then asked May “was she pro-life”.
Again, May’s response has not been reported.
Trump then asked about Johnson. The former London mayor’s ambition to become prime minister was well known, with the defection of a key ally, Michael Gove, effectively denting his hopes of succeeding David Cameron after the 2016 Brexit vote in May.
Trump, Haberman writes, told the prime minister that it seemed he had a “team of rivals”—the title of a famous book about Abraham Lincoln’s cabinet—but added that he would not pursue such a course. Can.
“John Kasich wanted to work for me after the election, but I couldn’t,” Trump said, referring to the former Ohio governor who opposed him in 2016 and beyond.
Haberman says Northern Ireland was also discussed, although Trump “got bored” and instead talked about an offshore wind farm near his Scottish golf course.
He also reportedly asked whether immigration was a major factor in the Brexit vote and criticized European leaders.
Describing May as “crime is on the rise in Germany”, Trump raped a second time, claiming that “women are being raped everywhere” and predicted that German Chancellor Angela Merkel would lose the election that year.
May’s response is reported in this example: Haberman says the prime minister “contradictory” Trump, saying “Merkel was indeed Europe’s best politician”.
Elsewhere, Haberman reports That Trump called Merkel “that bitch.”
In the Oval Office, Haberman says, May focused on “one of her primary interests for negotiations — sanctions against Russia and whether Trump plans to discuss them.” [Vladimir] Putin”.
Told by aides that he was due to speak to the Russian president the next day, Trump complained that he had not done so yet, citing Russia’s nuclear arsenal and saying: “I need to talk to this man. .. this is not the Congo.”
Haberman also described what happened when the president and prime minister left the Oval Office and took steps to colonize the White House: “There seems to be a need to stabilize ourselves,” Trump took on May.
The move caused controversy. Citing Guardian reporting, Haberman recalls the prime minister’s “panic” and her husband “having to explain why she was holding another man’s hand”.
“He just caught it,” May told the aides. “What can I do?”