July 7, 2020

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Trump ‘bullied and humiliated’ Theresa May on phone calls, saying she was ‘spineless’ on Brexit

Donald Trump's verbal assaults on Theresa May were described  a source with knowledge as “near-sadistic”. - Kenneth KawamotoDonald Trump's verbal assaults on Theresa May were described  a source with knowledge as “near-sadistic”. - Kenneth Kawamoto
Donald Trump’s verbal assaults on Theresa May were described a source with knowledge as “near-sadistic”. – Kenneth Kawamoto

Donald Trump regularly “bullied and humiliated” Theresa May on phone calls, calling her a “fool” and “spineless” on Brexit, according to officials privy to the conversations.

The US president reportedly attacked the then British prime minister for her stance on the European Union, Nato, immigration, and other issues the pair disagreed on.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="The details of the conversations have been published Carl Bernstein, one of two reporters who broke the Watergate Scandal, quoting White House and intelligence officials who are aware of the contents of Mr Trump’s calls with world leaders.” data-reactid=”19″>The details of the conversations have been published Carl Bernstein, one of two reporters who broke the Watergate Scandal, quoting White House and intelligence officials who are aware of the contents of Mr Trump’s calls with world leaders.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content=""He'd get agitated about something with Theresa May, then he'd get nasty with her on the phone call," Mr Bernstein wrote for CNN, quoting an official who described the verbal assaults as “near-sadistic”. "It’s the same interaction in every setting with just no filter applied," one of the sources said.” data-reactid=”20″>”He’d get agitated about something with Theresa May, then he’d get nasty with her on the phone call,” Mr Bernstein wrote for CNN, quoting an official who described the verbal assaults as “near-sadistic”. “It’s the same interaction in every setting with just no filter applied,” one of the sources said.

Mr Trump’s relationship with Mrs May was notoriously fraught, with both taking vastly different approaches to issues which once bonded the two countries.

Theresa May takes the hand of President Donald Trump as they walk up red-carpeted steps to enter Blenheim Palace for a black tie dinner in Blenheim, England - PATheresa May takes the hand of President Donald Trump as they walk up red-carpeted steps to enter Blenheim Palace for a black tie dinner in Blenheim, England - PA
Theresa May takes the hand of President Donald Trump as they walk up red-carpeted steps to enter Blenheim Palace for a black tie dinner in Blenheim, England – PA

Observers described the special relationship during the period Mrs May served as premier, from 2016-2019, as arguably at its lowest point since the Suez Crisis of 1956.

According to Mr Bernstein’s sources, Mr Trump reserved his most vicious attacks for female leaders and heads of state.

He reportedly denigrated Mrs May and Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, while he was always cordial – even reverential –  to strongman leaders such presidents Vladimir Putin of Russia and Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey.

“Some of the things he said to Angela Merkel are just unbelievable: he called her ‘stupid,’ and accused her of being in the pocket of the Russians,” an unnamed official said. “He’s toughest [in the phone calls] with those he looks at as weaklings and weakest with the ones he ought to be tough with.”

Trump was reverential to strongman leaders such as Putin of Russia and Erdogan of Turkey - APTrump was reverential to strongman leaders such as Putin of Russia and Erdogan of Turkey - AP
Trump was reverential to strongman leaders such as Putin of Russia and Erdogan of Turkey – AP

While the insults were “water off a duck’s back” for Mrs Merkel, Mrs May, in contrast, became “flustered and nervous” on the calls. “He clearly intimidated her and meant to,” the source said.

Mr Trump was also said to have resisted asking Mrs Merkel – at the UK’s urging – to publicly hold Mr Putin accountable for the Salisbury poisonings of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia.

The claims made to Mr Bernstein, a former Washington Post reporter who together with Bob Woodward revealed scandals that led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon, were similar to some of those made in former national security adviser John Bolton’s book The Room Where it Happened.

However, the calls described to CNN cover a far longer period than Mr Bolton’s tenure and are much more comprehensive, according to Mr Bernstein.

President Donald Trump meets with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson at the United Nations General Assembly in New York - APPresident Donald Trump meets with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson at the United Nations General Assembly in New York - AP
President Donald Trump meets with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson at the United Nations General Assembly in New York – AP

Mr Bolton also said he noticed his former boss was much harsher with female leaders. Sky News asked Mr Bolton in a recent interview whether he thought the president was sexist. “I don’t know what the issue is but time and again we ran into that difficulty,” he answered.

In response to a request for comment about Mr Trump’s behaviour in calls with Mrs May, Downing Street referred reporters to its website, which lists brief descriptions of the content of some of the calls.

Mr Bolton, conversely, has claimed Prime Minister Boris Johnson, whom Mr Trump sees as a natural ally, played the president “like a fiddle”.

John Bolton, former national security adviser to president Trump, said he noticed his former boss was much harsher with female leaders. - PJohn Bolton, former national security adviser to president Trump, said he noticed his former boss was much harsher with female leaders. - P
John Bolton, former national security adviser to president Trump, said he noticed his former boss was much harsher with female leaders. – P

“I’ve known Boris before he was prime minister,” Mr Bolton said. “I think he’s got a good sense of humour and I had the sense that behind those twinkling eyes he was playing Trump like a fiddle too.”

Mr Bernstein reported that on calls with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Kim Jong-un, the North Korean dictator, the US president “boasted” about his own personal wealth. While conversations with the Russian president sounded like “two guys in a steam bath”.

The president reportedly “almost never” read the briefing materials prepared for him in advance of the calls.

The CNN report came as Mr Trump faced growing questions as to why the US did not act on information that Russian military intelligence units had been offered “bounties” to Taliban-allied fighters for American troops serving in Afghanistan.

Associated Press reported on Monday that top officials in the White House were aware in 2019 of classified intelligence, a full year earlier than has been previously reported.

The Trump administration claims the president was not aware of any such briefing.

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