The British people welcomed President Trump how they know best — rather asymmetrically with sarcasm and humor.
On Monday, this came in the form of a giant photo of a USS John McCain baseball cap projected onto the dome of Madame Tussauds, along with a projection of Trump's dismal U.K. approval ratings next to that of Obama on the Tower of London. These stunts were pulled off by a quad of London-based Remainers who created a “nationwide Brexit billboard phenomenon” called Led By Donkeys and felt the self-described “Mr. Brexit” and friend of Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson deserved the billboard treatment.
- “I think there is a healthy skepticism of poltiicans who take themselves too seriously and we’ve had our fair share of pompous, populous egos down the years and there is a tradition in British politics of not taking those people seriously when they want you to take them deadly serious,” Ben Stewart, a founder of Led By Donkeys, told Power Up as he was tucking his daughter in for the night before heading out to install additional projections.
- “By laughing at them, you can reduce their power. Satire is deeply ingrained in British politics. We're just about taking the piss out of Trump.”
- Its also been a way to “bring a bit of levity to a dark time” in British politics, Stewart added.
The Ugly American: The tradition of condescending American visitors and politicians across the pond goes as far back as when Charles Dickens visited America in 1842 and proceeded to write about American “nastiness,” British historian Niall Ferguson, who is currently a senior fellow at Stanford's Hoover Institution, told Power Up.
Trump is the perfect target for what he referred to as “British condescension,” but said that it was “a bit rich for the British to be looking down their noses at the Americans” during this moment in time.
- “If you compare the Trump presidency with Brexit — guess which is going worse? Brexit! Epic fail doesn’t really even begin to cover it,” Ferguson told Power Up.
- “A humorless person like Donald Trump who combines self importance with vulgarity is the perfect target for British humor,” but that's “how the British fundamentally think of Americans. The same kind of condescension was meted out to George W. Bush and to Ronald Reagan,” Ferguson added.
British writer and commentator William Shawcross argued that dislike of Trump is only part of the British reaction to the controversial American president and that it shouldn't overshadow the solemn reason for Trump's visit: commemorating the anniversary of D-Day. (An Ipsos MORI poll last year found that 68 percent of Brits hold an unfavorable view of Trump and only 19 percent view him favorably.)
- “We are in a terrible state at the moment and Brexit is a terrific mess and Trump has obviously taken a strong categorical position, which of course doesn't endear him to yet another set of people who oppose him.” But “he’s here at this time because it’s marking the anniversary of D-Day and it’s hugely important. If it wasn't for the U.S., I would have grown up speaking German,” Shawcross told us.
- “We owe an immeasurable debt to the joint British, American and allied forces that landed in Normandy on June 6, 1944,” the Queen said in a toast on Monday night at the state banquet at Buckingham Palace. “The anniversary of D-Day reminds us all of all our country has shared together.”
INSIDE JOKES: Shawcross added that Trump's visit also “shows the monarchy and the Queen at their best.” But there's been ample speculation that even the Queen might be in on the joke, too.
- “The brilliant thing about the Queen is that there is this tiny possibility” that her gestures toward Trump might be tinged with “irony, if not sarcasm but you just can’t tell because she’s so good. She's been dealing with American presidents since Truman. You can imagine the Royal Family crying with laughter after this is all over but putting on their stiffest upper lips while the Trumps are here,” Ferguson told us.
Meanwhile, Trump appeared to be less concerned with Brexit and more preoccupied by his feud with London Mayor Sadiq Khan, whom he called a “stone cold loser who should focus on crime in London, not me” — a petty public squabble oddly juxtaposed with the official reason for his trip.
“He mentioned some of his feelings about the mayor of London, which I saw subsequently he just tweeted out as well,” Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt told the BBC on Monday, recounting his conversation with Trump after Hunt greeted him on the tarmac. “He wasn’t exactly saying that he’s going to be inviting Sadiq Khan for royal treatment at the White House any time soon.”
“The dispute played out all day, with Conservative politicians stepping forward to defend Mr. Trump and criticize Mr. Khan. It was a jarring counterpoint to the gauzy images of the president meeting the royal family, but it played to Mr. Trump’s desire, even when visiting one of America’s closest allies, to have an adversary,” the New York Times’s Mark Landler and Maggie Haberman report.
By the end of the day, Trump tweeted his approval of the ceremonial events: “The Queen and the entire Royal family have been fantastic,” adding he had not “seen any protests yet, but I’m sure the Fake News will be working hard to find them.”
- It likely won’t be very difficult for the media to locate the protests as major demonstrations are scheduled for today, “when of thousands of protesters are expected to pack London’s Trafalgar Square. A giant balloon depicting Trump as a diaper-clad baby is expected to take flight, and opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn is scheduled to address the crowds,” per my colleagues William Booth, Toluse Olorunnipa, and Anne Gearan.
Trump and Prime Minister Theresa May will hold a join news conference at 9 a.m. Eastern time May is scheduled to step down from her post as leader of the Conservative Party on Friday with at least 13 candidates vying to replace her as prime minister. It’s here that things are likely to swerve back to politics:
- Trump already tweeted of a potential “Big Trade Deal” once the “U.K. gets rid of the shackles.”
- “Huawei will top talks in London after the British government appeared to defy Trump administration demands and allow the Chinese company a limited role in building 5G networks . . . The Trump administration has told allies not to use Huawei’s 5G technology and equipment because of fears it would allow China to spy on sensitive communications and data. Huawei denies it is, or could be, a vehicle for Chinese intelligence,” per Reuters’s Steve Holland and Guy Faulconbridge.
The Trump baby balloon has been inflated:
TECH COMPANIES WON'T "LIKE" THIS: “House lawmakers plan a sweeping review of Facebook, Google and other technology giants to determine if they’ve become so large and powerful that they stifle competition and harm consumers, marking a new, unprecedented antitrust threat for an industry that’s increasingly under siege by Congress, the White House and 2020 presidential candidates,” our colleagues Tony Romm and Elizabeth Dwoskin report.
- More on the probe: "The probe, announced Monday by Rep. David Cicilline (R.I.), the leader of the House’s top antitrust subcommittee, is expected to be far reaching and comes at a moment when Democrats and Republicans find themselves in rare alignment on the idea that the tech industry has been too unregulated for too long. The sentiment spurred a sharp sell-off in tech stocks to start the week.
- The “Internet is broken”: “Cicilline said the investigation won’t target one specific tech company, but rather focus on the broad belief that the ‘Internet is broken,’ he told reporters,” Tony and Elizabeth write. “In a lot of ways, there was a reluctance in the early days of the Internet to interfere,” the Democratic lawmaker said. “It was creating so much value in the lives of people that [some felt] you should get out of the way and allow it to flourish.”
- What this means: Cicilline said lawmakers “would hold hearings, seek documents — even by subpoena, if necessary — and depose witnesses that could include the leaders of Silicon Valley’s largest companies, who might also be asked to testify publicly.” In short, this is not going away anytime soon.
BARR MIGHT BE HELD IN CONTEMPT — AGAIN: Attorney General William Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross may soon be held in contempt of Congress for “failing to comply with subpoenas for documents related to the Trump administration’s decision to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census,” the Associated Press’s Matthew Daily reports.
- “Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, the [House Oversight Committee’s] Democratic chairman, said Monday that lawmakers will vote soon on contempt measures for both men. Cummings says their failure to respond to the subpoenas is “part of a pattern” by the administration to engage in a “coverup” and challenge the authority of Congress to conduct constitutionally required oversight.”
A MUELLER REPORT HEARING SANS MUELLER: House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) also announced his panel will try to reinvigorate the national conversation about the special counsel’s investigation. Former Nixon White House counsel John Dean, whose turn against the president was a major moment in the Watergate investigations, is the biggest witness set to testify.
- “Former U.S. attorneys and legal experts are expected to attend, as is John W. Dean III, the former White House counsel under President Richard M. Nixon who accused Nixon of being directly involved in the Watergate coverup and later served four months in prison for obstruction of justice,” our colleagues Felicia Sonmez and Rachael Bade report.
- More hearings to come: “Given the threat posed by the president’s alleged misconduct, our first hearing will focus on President Trump’s most overt acts of obstruction. In the coming weeks, other hearings will focus on other important aspects of the Mueller report,” Nadler said in a statement.
On The Hill
HOUSE PASSES DISASTER RELIEF (AND, THE SENATE HAS ALREADY PASSED THE MEASURE): “The House passed a long-delayed aid bill on Monday that will send $19.1 billion to states and territories hit by flooding, wildfires, tornadoes, hurricanes and other natural disasters in recent months,” our colleague Erica Werner reports. “The legislation passed by a wide bipartisan margin, 354 to 58, and now goes to President Trump. The president has described the bill as “great” and is expected to sign it.”
- About Trump: The president appeared not to understand he can sign the bill, now. “House just passed 19.1 Billion Dollar Disaster Aid Grant. Great, now we will get it done in the Senate! Farmers, Puerto Rico and all will be very happy,” the president wrote last night in a now-deleted tweet (see screenshot above).
- It appears someone let him know the Senate passed the measure, 85-8, on May 23.
IN OTHER NEWS: GOP lawmakers are debating whether to try and block Trump's planned new tariffs on Mexico, scooped our colleagues Erica Werner, Seung Min Kim and Damian Paletta.
- How? Such a vote would come in the form of overriding Trump's veto of resolution of disapproval for Trump's emergency state at the border.
- "The vote, which would be the GOP’s most dramatic act of defiance since Trump took office, could also have the effect of blocking billions of dollars in border wall funding that the president had announced in February ... "
- Key: "Republican lawmakers aren’t eager to be drawn into a conflict with the president. But some feel they might have to take action following a growing consensus within the GOP that these new tariffs would amount to tax increases on American businesses and consumers — something that would represent a profound breach of party orthodoxy," Erica, Seung Min and Damian report.
WALL WIN FOR TRUMP: A federal judge in D.C. rejected a House lawsuit to temporarily stop spending on the wall, "saying the House lacked legal standing to sue the president for allegedly overstepping his power by diverting billions intended for other purposes to pay for it," per The Post's Spencer Hsu.
- Key: "The decision is at odds with a May 24 ruling by a federal judge in California that temporarily blocked part of the plan because it was using money Congress never appropriated for that purpose."
JAY-Z BECOMES THE FIRST HIP-HOP BILLIONAIRE: He is a business, man. Forbes on Monday crowned Jay-Z the first hip-hop billionaire with a conservative net worth of $1 billion and stakes "encompassing liquor, art, real estate (homes in Los Angeles, the Hamptons, Tribeca) and stakes in companies like Uber," Forbes' Zack O'Malley Greenburg reports.
- How he did it: "... He realized that he should build his own brands rather than promote someone else’s: the clothing line Rocawear, started in 1999 (sold for $204 million to Iconix in 2007); D’Ussé, a cognac he co-owns with Bacardi; and Tidal, a music-streaming service," O'Malley Greenburg writes.
- Flashback to Warren Buffett in 2010: "Jay is teaching in a lot bigger classroom than I’ll ever teach in. For a young person growing up, he’s the guy to learn from," the Oracle of Omaha told Forbes at the time.
In the Media
WHAT ELSE WE'RE READING:
- 30 years since Tiananmen: He spent 17 years in prison after Tiananmen. But he will not be silent. By The Post's Anna Fifield.
- More on Tiananmen: A Massacre, Erased. By The Post's Global Opinions.
- China responds: Pompeo statement on Tiananmen met with sharp China response. By the Associated Press.
- Botched family reunifications left migrant children waiting in vans overnight. By NBC News's Jacob Soboroff and Julia Ainsley.
- Just Do It: Rise of the Lady Backpack. By The Atlantic's Olga Khazan.
- Trump said Queen Elizabeth was a mechanic during WWII. Is that for real?. By The Post's Gillian Brockell.
- #NowPlaying: NPR Music's Top 15 Albums From May/ By NPR Music.