Trump attacks London Mayor
US President seizes on London terror attack to push for travel ban
WASHINGTON United States President Donald Trump seized on the London terror attack to demand the US ban on travellers from some Muslim countries be reinstated, sparking a diplomatic row with Britain and jeopardising his legal defence of the measure in the process.
In the wake of Saturday's deadly attack, Mr Trump renewed calls on Monday for a travel crackdown while attacking London's Muslim mayor, the media, Democrats, judges and opponents who accuse him of playing the politics of fear.
Mr Trump has made combatting jihadists a central plank of his politics, using deliberately inflammatory rhetoric and attacking the "political correctness" of those advocating a nuanced approach. The "special relationship" with Britain became the latest casualty of that hardline stance on Monday.
Mr Trump repeatedly criticised London Mayor Sadiq Khan, whom he accused of playing down the terror threat.
Mr Khan had told Londoners that an increased police presence in the wake of the attacks was nothing to worry about.
Mr Trump misconstrued that statement and went on to accuse Mr Khan of making up a "pathetic excuse" for his remarks.
"We must stop being politically correct and get down to the business of security for our people. If we don't get smart, it will only get worse," Mr Trump said.
Prime Minister Theresa May, who is under growing pressure to denounce Mr Trump ahead of tomorrow's election, came to Mr Khan's defence. "I think Sadiq Khan is doing a good job, and it's wrong to say anything else - he's doing a good job," she said, despite the pair being from opposite political parties.
Mrs May had already faced pressure to criticise Mr Trump or even withdraw his invitation for a state visit after he pulled out of a global climate deal and edged away from collective arrangements under Nato.
Mr Khan, London's first Muslim mayor, told British media he had "better and more important things to focus on" than responding to Mr Trump's tweets.
In the US, many veteran diplomats and officials decried Mr Trump's remarks.
"To my friends in the UK: I apologise for this," said Mr Ben Rhodes, a former national security aide to Mr Barack Obama.
New York Mayor Bill De Blasio said Mr Khan was "doing an extraordinary job supporting Londoners in a time of pain. President Trump's attack on him is unacceptable."
The White House tried to play down Trump's tweets.
"I don't see that the President is picking a fight with the Mayor of London at all," said spokesman Sarah Huckabee Sanders.
She accused the media of putting a "spin" on the issue.
Mr Trump also found himself in hot water over his tough-talking tweets defending his ban on travellers from several Muslim countries, which is currently stalled in the federal courts.
The White House has struggled to prevent the measures from being permanently struck down, insisting it is not a "ban" and does not target Muslims - which would almost certainly be unconstitutional.
Mr Trump did not mince words.
"People, the lawyers and the courts can call it whatever they want, but I am calling it what we need and what it is, a TRAVEL BAN!" he tweeted. - AFP