In addition to his wife and four adult children, the president brought along friends like Chris Ruddy, CEO of the conservative media organization Newsmax.
LONDON – President Donald Trump brought his own royal entourage to Britain.
On his first state visit to the United Kingdom, Trump brought his wife and four adult children, but it wasn’t just family that tagged along for the ride. Close friends such as Chris Ruddy, CEO of the conservative media organization Newsmax, made the trip and attended the state banquet Monday night.
Story Continued Below
The coterie surrounding Trump appeared to provide a buffer throughout the day for the highly anticipated interactions between the unruly American leader and Britain’s well-mannered royal family. The seamless interactions with Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Charles and a host of other British royals stood in contrast with Trump’s pre-arrival Twitter bombast and norm-busting interviews with the British media.
The set up wasn’t an accident. While officials know they can’t stop the Trump tweetstorms – including a heated outburst calling London Mayor Sadiq Khan a “stone cold loser” – they hoped the circle of close friends, family and advisers would at least protect the president’s time with the royals, a former White House official said. First lady Melania Trump reportedly prepared for the trip by studying certain protocols, including walking and speaking directives, to which guests of the queen are meant to adhere in her presence.
“I was glad he defended himself against the London mayor’s attacks, but that’s the kind of stuff you should absolutely leave at the palace door,” the official said.
In addition to Trump’s family and friends, there was also a swollen group of administration officials that accompanied the president. White House adviser Kellyanne Conway, press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, social media director Dan Scavino, policy adviser Stephen Miller and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and his wife are in Britain.
But even with the safeguard of advisers and family, Trump has bulldozed his way into England. In a series of interviews ahead of his arrival, Trump called Meghan Markle “nasty,” criticized British Prime Minister Theresa May’s handling of Brexit negotiations and stumped for Boris Johnson, a longtime Brexit champion, to replace the outgoing May.
After touching down, though, a more diplomatic Trump took over.
Trump stood stoically beside Elizabeth on the west terrace of Buckingham Palace to watch the Grenadier Guards, in their iconic red tunics and bearskin hats, give a royal salute. He placed his hand over his heart during a performance of the national anthem, inspected the guard of honor with Charles and dutifully followed her majesty back inside once the ceremony concluded.
By late Monday afternoon, Trump was mostly off Twitter and enjoying a customary cup of tea with Charles and his wife, Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall.
“London part of the trip is going really well. The queen and the entire Royal family have been fantastic. The relationship with the United Kingdom is very strong,” Trump wrote on Twitter in between his meetings and the state dinner at Buckingham Palace.
Though White House officials declined to say whether Trump was briefed on royal protocols ahead of the trip, Judi James, a prominent body language expert in the U.K., told the The Daily Telegraph that the president appeared to have studied up since his earlier U.K. trip in July.
“He looked as though he knew what he was doing much more. Last time, there was a degree of awkwardness. This time, he looked much more dignified,” James said.
There are scores of arcane rules for interacting with British royals, said Angela Levin, a royal biographer.
“You never talk to the queen, you wait for her to talk to you first. You don’t go in front of her … and if she stops eating, you have to stop eating too,” she said.
“It’s actually quite daunting for any president, when you’re sitting at the banquet table near the queen and have six glasses in front of you and masses of cutlery,” Levin added, noting that protocol will play an important role when the Trumps accompany the queen on Wednesday to a D-Day anniversary ceremony in Portsmouth.
A senior White House official suggested that Trump’s adult children, who are along for the visit and attended the state banquet with their spouses, didn’t need etiquette lessons before interacting with the queen: “These are kids with impeccable etiquette to start with, so I wondered if that was even necessary.”
Ivanka Trump, a White House adviser, was the only other member of the first family visibly present during the welcome ceremony at Buckingham Palace. She and her husband, White House adviser Jared Kushner, stood on one of several balconies overlooking the queen’s private garden as the president greeted the queen. They were joined by U.S. Ambassador to the U.K. Woody Johnson, as national security adviser John Bolton peeked out of a large window to their right. Johnson is set to host a reception for the president, U.K. officials and members of the royal family at his residence Tuesday night.
Aides are more anxious about Tuesday’s joint news conference by Trump and May, according to an administration official. It’s these bilateral events, rather than the ceremonial gatherings, at which Trump tends to make news. Indeed, Trump has repeatedly sparked controversy during overseas news conferences.
The president sided with Russian President Vladimir Putin when he claimed during a joint appearance last summer that Kremlin operatives did not meddle in the 2016 presidential election. And at a news conference last month with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Trump said he agreed with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s criticism of Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden.
Trump will also have a three-hour gap on Tuesday between his final bilateral event and his dinner at the ambassador’s home – a rest period that is likely to put White House aides and U.K. officials on edge.
On Monday, once his activities with members of the royal household had concluded, Trump fired off four tweets on a wide range of topics in a two-hour span of downtime.
“Haven’t seen any protests yet, but I’m sure the Fake News will be working hard to find them… Also, big Trade Deal is possible once U.K. gets rid of the shackles. Already starting to talk!” he wrote.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this story misspelled London Mayor Sadiq Khan’s name.
This article tagged under:
Missing out on the latest scoops? Sign up for POLITICO Playbook and get the latest news, every morning – in your inbox.