LONDON — If the White House Travel Office were to give President Trump’s upcoming tour of Britain a name, it might be something like, “Ye Olde United Kingdom: Castles, Royals, Gardens and Golf.”
The White House and Trump’s British hosts are opting to go big on pomp and tradition, and mostly skip the current circumstances — namely, the mass demonstration against the U.S. president planned for Friday in central London.
The street rally, which organizers hope could draw 100,000 people or more, will feature a giant “Trump Baby” balloon — a cartoonish depiction of the U.S. leader in diapers and clutching a mobile phone.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan extended his long-running feud with Trump by approving the permit for the balloon to float above the Palace of Westminster. The mayor, a prominent leader of the opposition Labour Party, has repeatedly said that Trump is not welcome in his city.
Trump was originally invited last year to a state visit by Prime Minister Theresa May, but more than 1 million people signed a petition against the trip. Trump also decided against a ceremonial visit in January to open the new billion-dollar U.S. Embassy.
This further try has been scaled back to a working visit, with a side trip to meet the monarch. The itinerary still oozes with ceremony — all cleverly taking place at a discreet distance from the mob. Then Trump will fly to Scotland to play golf for the weekend before meeting Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki the following Monday.
BBC diplomatic correspondent James Robbins described the trip as “the most controversial visit ever made by an American president to Britain.”
British officials are worried about what will transpire, especially following uneven conversations between May and Trump, who has expressed frustration about likely protests. British diplomats have met with a number of White House officials about the visit, including top adviser Stephen Miller and Chief of Staff John F. Kelly.
They have given him a light schedule, with plenty of “executive time,” and have looked for perks to present.
Trump, after his trip overseas to Asia and the Middle East, crowed to aides for days about the grandiose treatment — and the Brits hope to reproduce some of that magic.
Trump is due to land in the London area on Thursday afternoon after a two-day NATO summit in Brussels.
The president and first lady will spend Thursday evening at a black-tie gala for a hundred guests at impressive Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire, an enormous country manor where Winston Churchill was born.
May’s office revealed that martial bands of Scots, Irish and Welsh Guards will welcome Trump at his arrival in the Great Court with rousing renditions of the “Liberty Fanfare,” “Amazing Grace” and “National Emblem.”
During dinner, the Countess of Wessex's orchestra will perform “classic British and American hits.”
The plan is to stage a dinner with top British officials and business executives to talk about trade — in a bid to show Trump that the tariffs he has both imposed and threatened are not necessary. A person familiar with the planning said Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson is likely to sit at Trump’s table, along with representatives of big British companies that buy a lot of American goods.
Johnson told a private audience last month that he thought Trump might do a better job of negotiating Britain’s exit from the European Union than May has done.
Trump’s postprandial departure will be accompanied by the Royal Regiment of Scotland playing the bagpipes, a tip of the hat perhaps to Trump’s Scottish-German heritage.
The Trumps will retire for the night at Winfield House, the U.S. ambassador’s residence in London’s Regent’s Park. Ambassador Robert “Woody” Johnson is a friend of Trump, a scion of the Johnson & Johnson fortune and owner of the New York Jets.
Winfield House boasts one of the largest gardens in London.
That will be about the extent of Trump’s exposure to London. The itinerary doesn’t list a visit to the new embassy in South London, which Trump dismissed as a “bad deal.”
Johnson was asked by reporters in a conference call if the president was aware of the planned protests and Trump balloon.
“Yes, I think we are all aware of these things,” said Johnson, adding that the president “appreciates free speech, both in this country and in our country. It’s one of the things that binds us together.”
He denied that Trump was spending little time in central London to avoid demonstrators.
“No, the president is not avoiding anything. The president is really trying to get as impactful as a trip as he can get in a 24-hour period,” Johnson said.
On Friday morning, Trump will join May at a still-undisclosed site to observe military capabilities and training.
Trump will be given a presentation from the MI-6 intelligence agency and military leaders to show how Britain is fighting terrorists — in an effort to convince him that May is a tough leader.
The military simulation will be followed by a luncheon at Chequers, the prime minister’s official country estate in Buckinghamshire.
Then it’s off to Windsor Castle west of London, the weekend home of Queen Elizabeth II, most recently the scene of the royal wedding of Prince Harry and the American actress Meghan Markle, now known as the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.
Later on Friday, Trump and his entourage depart for Scotland and golf.
“The goal is to convince him the special relationship is actually special,” one person familiar with the trip said.
Dawsey reported from Washington. Karla Adam in London contributed to this report.