President Trump said he canceled a planned trip to London because he doesn't want to cut the ribbon at the new U.S. embassy there that he described as a "bad deal."
Trump's on-again, off-again visit to the United Kingdom had been in the planning stages but hadn't been officially announced. The latest cancellation is sure to increase tensions with a vital ally that has broken with Trump recently over his anti-Muslim rhetoric. Some neighborhoods in London declared themselves off-limits to the president.
Trump confirmed his decision on Twitter late Thursday night after British newspapers reported that fears of mass protests had scuttled the trip. But Trump gave a different reason, blaming former President Obama.
"Reason I canceled 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," Trump said in a tweet late Thursday. "Bad deal. Wanted me to cut ribbon-NO!"
Reason I canceled 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!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 12, 2018
The problem with that rationale is that Trump's tweet misrepresented the history of the U.S. Embassy move. According to the State Department, it was the administration of President George W. Bush — not Obama — that decided to build a new embassy in 2006 and chose the new location in 2008.
The billion-dollar price tag is typical of an embassy construction of that size, and officials said it was financed entirely by the sale of other U.S. property in England — not new taxpayer money.
The diplomatic compound moved from Grosvenor Square in the well-heeled Mayfair neighborhood of central London, to Nine Elms, a formerly industrial area of southwest London that has been part of regeneration efforts by the capital city.
Trump's ambassador to the United Kingdom, Woody Johnson, described the new embassy last month as a "signal to the world" that the “special relationship” between the two nations "is stronger and is going to grow and get better."
But the decision to cancel the visit will be an embarrassment to British Prime Minister Theresa May. While the trip was always intended to be a working one, and separate to an official full state visit this year for which a date has not been set, as president Trump has visited more than a dozen countries ahead of Britain, including Belgium, China, France, Germany, Israel, Italy, Japan, the Philippines, Poland, Saudi Arabia, South Korea and Vietnam. He has even visited Vatican City and the West Bank.
White House officials could not be immediately be reached to clarify the reasoning behind the decision and May's office has also not commented.
Trump will visit the World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, Switzerland later this month.
Kim Hjelmgaard and Jane Onyanga-Omara contributed from London.