US President Donald Trump tried to ease tensions with UK Prime Minister Theresa May on Friday at a press conference held in the wake of an explosive interview published in a tabloid newspaper where he was highly critical of her approach to Brexit.
"I think she's doing a terrific job, by the way," Trump said of May's handling of Brexit after having said in the interview that she had ignored his advice on how to negotiate.
"Whatever you do is OK with us," Trump said at a joint press conference held on the lawns of Chequers, the Prime Minister's country residence.
May said she planned to ensure that the UK would be able to pursue an ambitious trade agreement with the US after Brexit.
The interview, published in the Rupert Murdoch-owned newspaper The Sun, came like a thunderbolt just as Trump was arriving for one of the most lavish ceremonies as part of his welcome on his first official visit to the UK as president.
At Chequers, Trump was at pains to reverse the strains his words had caused.
"I didn't criticize the Prime Minister, I have a lot of respect for her," he said. "Unfortunately that was a story that was done which was, you know, generally fine, but it didn't put in what I said about the Prime Minister, and I said tremendous things," Trump added.
"Unfortunately we tend to record so we have it for your enjoyment if you like, but we record what we do with reporters, it's called fake news. We solve a lot of problems with the recording instrument," Trump added.
When asked what kind of relationship the US had with the UK, the President said he classified it as the highest level of special.
"Am I allowed to go higher?" Trump asked of May, and the two laughed, visibly trying to downplay any misunderstandings.
Trump's interview in Friday's edition of The Sun was entitled "May has wrecked Brexit" and not only criticized May's strategy with Brussels but also suggested that the UK's ex-foreign secretary Boris Johnson, who had been a thorn in the side of the government and resigned from his post earlier in the week, would make a good Prime Minister.
Trump thanked his hostess for the welcome he had been given and said he was especially delighted with Thursday night's gala dinner at Blenheim Palace, where Winston Churchill (1874-1965), for whom Trump professes to have a great admiration, was born.
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