13:40, June 05 468 0 theguardian.com

2017-06-05 13:40:02
Trump lashes out at Sadiq Khan again in wake of London attack

Donald Trump has stepped up his Twitter attack on London’s mayor over the response to Saturday’s terror attack, with a tirade that also appeared to rebuke the acting US ambassador to Britain.

With his latest tweet on Monday morning, Trump accused Sadiq Khan of making a “pathetic excuse” for his message to Londoners in the wake of the attacks at London Bridge and Borough Market. Trump wrote: “Pathetic excuse by London mayor Sadiq Khan, who had to think fast on his ‘no reason to be alarmed’ statement. [Mainstream media] is working hard to sell it!”

Trump’s initial criticism of Khan on Sunday was based on a misunderstanding of what the mayor had said. Early on Sunday morning, Khan had made a statement expressing grief and vowing that the terrorists “would not win”. Khan then added: “Londoners will see an increased police presence today and over the course of the next few days. There’s no reason to be alarmed.”

A few hours later on Sunday, Trump seemed to interpret that as suggesting Londoners should not be alarmed by terrorism.

“At least seven dead and 48 wounded in terror attack and mayor of London says there is “no reason to be alarmed!” Trump said.

The London mayor’s office responded by saying Khan had “more important things to do than respond to Donald Trump’s ill-informed tweet that deliberately takes out of context his remarks.”

Later on Sunday, the acting US ambassador to Britain, Lewis Lukens, put out a thread of tweets, culminating in a retweet of Khan’s statement and Lukens’ praise for the mayor.

“I commend the strong leadership of the mayor of London as he leads the city forward after this heinous attack,” the acting ambassador said.

U.S. Embassy London (@USAinUK)

I commend the strong leadership of the @MayorofLondon as he leads the city forward after this heinous attack. – LLukens 3/3 https://t.co/p4dDZuCpyO

June 4, 2017

In more normal times, such a message of solidarity with a host mayor in an allied state would be unremarkable, but it unleashed a torrent of online abuse from Trump’s supporters, accusing Lukens of disloyalty. Some focused on the fact that the acting ambassador was offering support for a foreign official who is Muslim rather than echoing the president. There were also calls for Lukens to be replaced.

Trump appeared to have picked up on conservative commentary on Monday morning, noting that the London embassy had not had a full ambassador since January. On Twitter he blamed Democrats in Congress for slowing the process.

“Dems are taking forever to approve my people, including ambassadors. They are nothing but OBSTRUCTIONISTS! Want approvals,” he tweeted.

However, although Trump announced on 19 January he had picked Woody Johnson, the owner of the New York Jets, to be the ambassador to the UK, Johnson has yet to be formally nominated to the Senate for confirmation.

So far, the Trump White House has made only 11 nominations for 188 ambassadorial posts. The state department is also operating without much of its senior management because of a lack of nominations.

Once nominations are made, the Democrats would not be able to block them on their own; the Republicans have a slight majority, which is usually enough to confirm appointments.

Trump’s complaint about ambassadorial confirmations suggests he was well aware of the row over Lukens’ remarks when he fired off his second attack on Khan.

With his tweet, Trump seemed to lash out at the mayor’s office’s critical remarks about his initial intervention, coupled with a routine barb aimed at the “mainstream media” (MSM) – presumably for reporting that Trump had mischaracterised the mayor’s original statement.

A spokeswoman for Khan brushed away the renewed criticism from Trump, saying the mayor was focused on dealing with the aftermath of the London attack.

Trump’s decision to respond to the London attack first by using it to promote his immigration policies, and then by picking a fight with the city’s mayor, is likely to darken the shadow already hanging over his proposed state visit to the UK later this year.

In the two weeks following the announcement of the visit in January, nearly 2 million people signed an online petition in the UK calling for it be cancelled. Khan himself said Trump that should not be allowed to come to London until he revoked his proposed ban on travelers from six predominantly Muslim countries. Trump is vociferously campaigning for the ban to be approved by US courts.