Photo shows Trump and Gove as President denies knowing senior Tory

Remember Michael Gove now, Mr President? Photo shows Trump being interviewed by the environment secretary in 2017 – after praising Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt but saying he ‘didn’t know’ their Tory rival

  • US President spent more than an hour with Mr Gove after he took office in 2017 
  • During his State Visit, he joked with Jeremy Hunt about Tory leadership race 
  • Told Foreign Secretary ‘I don’t know Michael’, asking ‘would he do a good job?’ 

Donald Trump ran the rule over the Tory leadership candidates yesterday – and backed both Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt to succeed Theresa May.

Ignoring the usual diplomatic protocol of not commenting on domestic politics, the US President said he believed both men would do a ‘very good job’ as prime minister.

But he claimed he ‘didn’t know’ Michael Gove, despite the pair having spent more than an hour together when the Environment Secretary conducted a newspaper interview with the President just after he took office in 2017.

The intervention came during a joint press conference between Mr Trump and Mrs May following talks in Downing Street. 

Donald Trump (pictured with Michael Gove in 2017) said that he ‘didn’t know’ the Tory leadership candidate 

As it came to a close, Mr Trump jokingly asked Mr Hunt, who was sitting in the front row, whether he thought that rival frontrunner Mr Gove would do a good job as leader.

The President said: ‘So I know Boris. I like him. I have liked him for a long time. I think he would do a very good job.

‘I know Jeremy, I think he would do a very good job.’ He then turned to Foreign Secretary Mr Hunt and said pointedly: ‘I don’t know Michael – would he do a good job, Jeremy?’ To laughter, Mr Hunt replied diplomatically: ‘Of course.’

In preparation for Mrs May’s departure, the White House also set aside time for the President to have one-on-one meetings with the three men in anticipation of one of them taking office in the coming weeks.

Mr Hunt and Mr Gove are expected to see the President today. Mr Johnson was offered a meeting but aides said he was unable to make it because he was preparing for a leadership hustings last night. 

Instead the pair spoke on the phone for 20 minutes in what was described as a ‘friendly and productive’ conversation.

A Boris campaign source said: ‘Boris thanked him but declined the invitation as he has to focus on the hustings event that was happening at the same time, which the President understood.

‘He said he looked forward to catching up at a later date.’ Mr Johnson was due to address around 60 MPs in the One Nation group in Parliament.

Donald Trump (pictured at last night’s State Banquet with Theresa May and Jeremy Hunt, who he joked with about not knowing Michael Gove) has said he think Boris Johnson would be a good Tory leader 

Downing Street denied the decision to meet leadership candidates was a snub to Mrs May, and revealed Mr Trump had been ‘courteous’ and had let her know he was holding talks with the leadership rivals.

A source said: ‘Once the PM said she was stepping down, it was inevitable the focus would fall on who her successor will be.’

Downing Street vetoed a meeting between Mr Trump and Mr Johnson during his visit to the UK last summer, which came shortly after the former foreign secretary quit the Cabinet over the direction of Brexit negotiations with the European Union. 

Mr Johnson turned down the chance to meet the US president during his state visit so he can be grilled by moderate Tory MPs instead.  

Mr Trump is understood to have offered a private meeting later tonight – with a similar offer made to Environment Michael Gove.  

Gove aides said a senior Trump official had asked about a meeting with the Environment Secretary during the state banquet on Monday night.

A source last night said they did not see Mr Trump’s remarks as critical of Mr Gove. They added: ‘They asked for the meeting and followed up with us today. It may happen tomorrow.’

Trump rival de Blasio warns Tories to ‘stay away’ from president 

New York’s mayor has warned Tory leadership hopefuls to ‘stay away’ from the US president.

Bill de Blasio’s intervention came amid controversy over comments Mr Trump had made about Boris Johnson’s candidacy in the Tory leadership race and Nigel Farage’s mooted role in future Brexit negotiations.

Mr de Blasio – who has repeatedly clashed with Mr Trump – told the BBC’s Newsnight said: ‘He (Trump) was obviously quite comfortable with Russia attempting to intervene on his behalf of the American election. 

‘He’s now trying to do the same in other countries.

‘This is a bad pattern for democracy; it is not the place of a foreign leader to attempt to undermine the democratic will of any people so I would say to the Conservatives: Stay away from him.’

The New York mayor said issuing endorsements was ‘not the place of an American president’ as it ‘engenders ill will against the people of any country that hears that kind of message’.

Other potential leadership contenders – including Home Secretary Sajid Javid – were not offered meetings. 

Allies of Mr Javid, who was also not invited to the state banquet at Buckingham Palace, said he had a ‘good relationship’ with US intelligence.

Mr Johnson has already been endorsed by Mr Trump as the former foreign secretary continues to lead the competition to become Conservative leader.  

Whoever replaces Mrs May, who officially steps down as party leader on Friday, is likely to play a key role in negotiating any post-Brexit trade deal with the United States. 

Team Johnson had been coy over a meeting, insisting there had been ‘no correspondence’

A source close to the Environment Secretary said: ‘Mr Gove was asked last night by Mr Trump’s team if he would be able to meet the president today. He said yes. Nothing has been fixed yet.’ 

Donald Trump and Theresa May will not have one-on-one talks during his state visit – in an apparent snub to the outgoing PM.

The US president and Mrs May met along with ministers and senior officials in Downing Street this morning.

Mr Trump said he believes Britain can have a ‘very very substantial trade deal’ with the United States after it leaves the EU. 

He said the the US was already the UK’s largest trading partner and that he believed there was scope for further expansion.

I think we will have a very, very substantial trade deal. This is something you want to do and my folks want to do,’ he said, adding to Mrs May: ‘Stick around. Let’s do this deal.’

Theresa May said that there were ‘huge opportunities’ for Britain and the US to work together in the future.

‘It is a great partnership but I think a partnership we can take even further. Of course that is with a good bilateral trade deal,’ she told the US president.

‘I think there are huge opportunities for us to do more together in the future and challenges to work on as well.’ 

The President did make time to see Nigel Farage. The Brexit Party leader was driven into the US ambassador’s residence in central London, where the US leader is staying.

Farage, who has previously met the president in the United States, said he would ‘wait and see if I get a call’ from the leader’s team for a chat. 

Mr Farage praised Mr Trump this morning, saying he had behaved with ‘great dignity’ on the first day of his visit yesterday

Mr Farage praised Mr Trump this morning, saying he had behaved with ‘great dignity’ on the first day of his visit yesterday – after Mr Trump had launched a Twitter tirade at ‘stone cold loser’ Sadiq Khan.

Asked about meeting Mr Trump, the Brexit Party leader told Good Morning Britain: ‘I’ve met him many times before when it has been ‘Oh, I’m free, maybe Nigel can come and see me’, so I’ll wait and see if I get a call this afternoon.

‘He behaved with great dignity yesterday and gave a speech saying all the right things.

‘What people in this country are seeing is a US President who got elected making promises that he actually carries out, whereas our politicians make promises they don’t intend to deliver.’  

Senior Conservative Brexiteers Iain Duncan Smith and Owen Paterson were also seen going into the residence, apparently to meet the President.

During the press conference, Mr Trump urged Mrs May – who will leave office within weeks – to ‘stick around’ and conclude a US/UK trade deal. 

But when asked by a reporter whether she would take up Mr Trump’s suggestion, the PM smiled and said: ‘No, I’m a woman of my word.’

Before his last visit to the UK in July, Mr Trump had criticised Mrs May’s Brexit deal and lavished praise on Mr Johnson, who had just quit the Cabinet.

He said: ‘I have a lot of respect for Boris. He obviously likes me, and says very good things about me. I was very saddened to see he was leaving government and I hope he goes back in at some point. I think he is a great representative for your country.

‘I am not pitting one against the other. I am just saying I think he would be a great prime minister.’

 

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