AILSA CHANG, HOST:
President Trump has closed out his first day in the United Kingdom with a thud. There was some pomp and circumstance and a dinner at the birthplace of Winston Churchill. And then the British tabloid The Sun published an explosive interview with the U.S. president, one that's going to make talks with the British prime minister, Theresa May, a little awkward.
We begin our coverage in Washington with NPR's White House correspondent Scott Horsley. Hey, Scott.
SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: Good to be with you, Ailsa.
CHANG: So the headline on The Sun reads "May Has Wrecked Brexit... U.S. Deal Is Off." OK, what is that about?
HORSLEY: Well, the president is talking here about the way Prime Minister May has gone about negotiating Britain's withdrawal from the European Union. And he's basically suggesting that she's pursuing a course that's different than what he would. He would prefer a harder Brexit, a more robust separation of the U.K. economy from the continental economy. Here's what he had to say.
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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I would have done it much differently. I actually told Theresa May how to do it, but she didn't agree with - she didn't listen to me.
UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: What did you say?
TRUMP: She didn't listen. No, I told her how to do it. That will be up to her to say. But I told her how to do it. She wanted to go a different route.
HORSLEY: And the president went on to say this could jeopardize chances for a U.S.-U.K. bilateral trade deal. That's something that Theresa May is very interested in striking. Remember; she was the first foreign leader to visit President Trump in the White House...
HORSLEY: ...After the Brexit vote because if Britain's not going to be part of the European economy, they very much want to have trade ties with the U.S. Trump is saying here that might not happen if you keep one foot in Europe.
CHANG: Now, the president also defended Theresa May's rival Boris Johnson. He took aim at London's Muslim mayor Sadiq Khan. Tell us about those remarks.
HORSLEY: Right. He said Boris Johnson would make a great prime minister, which is a little bit awkward since Johnson just left May's Cabinet...
HORSLEY: ...In a squabble over how this Brexit is playing out. And of course the president has a long-running feud with Sadiq Khan. You might remember they had words about - just about a year ago after a terrorist attack in London when just hours after that attack and with incomplete information Trump took to Twitter criticizing Khan. J.K. Rowling, the Harry Potter author, I think responded to that by saying, if we need an ignorant blowhard, we'll call.
HORSLEY: This is exactly the reason that the president is being met with, you know, protest balloons in the city of London. But he then broadened this out to sort of a nativist attack on immigration and the effect it's having throughout Europe.
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TRUMP: I think what's happened to Europe is a shame. I think the immigration - allowing the immigration to take place in Europe is a shame. I think it changed the fabric of Europe. And unless you act very quickly, it's never going to be what it was. And I don't mean that in a positive way.
HORSLEY: Now, this of course is not terribly different than the argument that the president makes about illegal immigration in this country.
CHANG: Do we know anything about how this interview came to be? Was it a long time in planning? Do we have any information about it?
HORSLEY: Well, it doesn't appear to have been an ambush interview. It seems to be, you know, something where the president sat down and spoke at some length with the interviewer from The Sun. It's not unusual when a president is visiting another country to do an interview to sort of lay the groundwork for the diplomatic talks that are going to go on.
HORSLEY: It is unusual, though, to have that interview sort of laced with hand grenades that are sure to create some awkward scenes tomorrow.
CHANG: That's NPR's Scott Horsley. Thank you very much, Scott.
HORSLEY: Good to be with you, Ailsa. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.