Live Briefing: Trump’s U.K. Visit: A Sedate Dinner, a Bombshell Interview

The tension and uncertainty surrounding President Trump’s trip to Britain reached new heights after the publication Thursday night of a bombshell interview in which he said Prime Minister Theresa May was taking the wrong approach to Brexit, praised her political rival and former foreign secretary, and renewed his feud with the mayor of London.

The president has never shown much affection for diplomatic norms and multilateral institutions, and that was on full display earlier Thursday at the NATO summit meeting in Brussels, where he forced an emergency budget meeting after castigating other members over their military spending.

For the president to criticize and politically undercut Mrs. May, one of his closest international allies, on her home turf is an extraordinary breach of protocol, but if anything seems clear at this point, it is that there is no reason to expect the expected.

• Mr. Trump is scheduled to hold talks and a working lunch on Friday with Mrs. May — followed by tea with the queen — but his interview with The Sun could put a chill on the encounter before it begins.

Mrs. May has strived to maintain cordial relations with Mr. Trump, mindful of her country’s desire to strike a post-Brexit trade deal with the United States, but he told The Sun that her current approach “would probably end a major trade relationship with the United States.”

• Mr. Trump said at a news conference that “they like me a lot in the U.K.,” but he was greeted with protests on Thursday, and there’s more to come on Friday. He is largely avoiding London, telling The Sun, “When they make you feel unwelcome, why would I stay there.”

• The NATO meeting ended with Mr. Trump reaffirming his support for the alliance, but only after a confrontation in which he said leaders had agreed to increase spending — a claim that at least two European leaders refuted.

• The New York Times has live coverage of his seven-day, three-nation trip, from our White House reporters and European correspondents. Photographs from Mr. Trump’s weeklong trip are here.

Mr. Trump breathed new life into his long-distance, long-running feud with the mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, with his harsh comments on the city and its leader, and the mayor struck back on Friday.

“Take a look at the terrorism that’s taking place,” Mr. Trump told The Sun. “Look at what’s going on in London. I think he’s done a terrible job.” He added, “I think he’s done a bad job on crime.”

Speaking to BBC Radio on Friday, Mr. Khan said he thought it “interesting that President Trump is not criticizing the mayors of other cities” that have experienced terrorist attacks.

That appeared to be a reference to Mr. Khan’s faith — he is among few Muslims serving as mayor of a major Western city, and Mr. Trump has sought to restrict travel to the United States from people from predominantly -Muslim countries.

London has been struggling with an increase in knife crimes, but Mr. Khan said that to blame immigration for the increase was “preposterous.”

Mr. Khan also defended his decision to allow a balloon depicting Mr. Trump as an angry, orange baby to float over Westminister. “Can you imagine if we limited freedom of speech because someone might get hurt?” he told the BBC. As mayor, he said, he “should not be the arbiter of what is in good taste or bad taste.”

The main order of business on Friday for Mr. Trump is a private conversation and working lunch with Mrs. May, who dearly wants to strike a trade deal with the United States as she tries to negotiate Britain’s departure from the European Union.

But Mr. Trump’s interview with The Sun, published Thursday night, overshadowed the meeting and threw some cold water on the prime minister’s hopes.

If Mrs. May persists in seeking a so-called soft exit from the European Union, Mr. Trump reportedly told The Sun, she can forget about a separate pact with the United States.

“If they do that,” the paper quoted him as saying, “then their trade deal with the U.S. will probably not be made.”

He described the prime minister’s approach to Brexit as “very unfortunate,” and said, “I actually told Theresa May how to do it, but she didn’t listen to me.”

He had much warmer words for Boris Johnson, the ambitious British politician who just quit as foreign minister in an open break with Mrs. May, and is seen as one of her primary rivals within the Conservative Party. Mr. Johnson, he said, would “make a great prime minister.”

At the very least, the interview gave Mr. Trump and Mrs. May some things to talk about on Friday.

British newspapers, especially the tabloids, know a good story when they see one, and the release of President Trump’s interview with The Sun dominated the front pages. A sampling of the headlines:

The Sun, which is owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp., proclaimed under a banner trumpeting the interview, “May has wrecked Brexit … deal is off!”

The Times of London, which is also owned by News Corp. but generally takes a more restrained approach, said, “Trump: May’s soft Brexit will kill chance of US trade deal.”

The Daily Mail described it as the “President’s Brexit Attack on May,” while another tabloid, the Daily Mirror, took a briefer approach that nonetheless managed to make its point: “Donald Thump.”

The Guardian has compiled a roundup of the pages here.

Protesters across from the ambassador’s residence, where the Trumps were staying the night, unleashed a “wall of sound.” It featured the cries of children detained by U.S. immigration authorities, as well a relentless stream of slogans, whistles and the banging of pots and drums.

As the presidential helicopter descended on the grounds of the ambassador’s residence in Regent’s Park, preparing to whisk Mr. Trump away to a black-tie dinner in a secluded palace outside the capital, protesters raised a cry.

British authorities had set up a metallic cage around the ambassador’s residence, where President Trump stayed overnight, as part of his security.

On Thursday, activists gave a taste of the protests planned on Friday, though the crowd thinned out after the president left for the dinner at Blenheim Palace.

Organizers hope to mount the biggest weekday demonstration in Britain since protests against the Iraq War more than a decade ago. Hundreds of protesters chanted and waved signs outside Blenheim Palace on Thursday night, when Mr. Trump was there for a gala dinner, and protests are planned for other stops on his visit.

“He needs to be called out,” said Harley Day, 23, a college student who joined the Regent’s Park protest after classes. “His bigotry, his sexism, his Islamophobia, his general xenophobia and crass inability to empathize.”

(Ceylan Yeginsu looks at the less-than-friendly greetings being planned for the president in Britain.)

Mr. Trump recommitted the United States to support for NATO, a bedrock of Western security policy for generations, on Thursday, comments that at least temporarily calmed fears that he might move toward dismantling the alliance.

“The United States commitment to NATO is very strong, remains very strong,” he said at a news conference in Brussels. “I believe in NATO.”

But if Mr. Trump’s public remarks were friendly, the tone behind closed doors was much harsher. Officials from other countries voiced fears that even if he had not broken an alliance that was first formed in 1949 to contain the Soviet Union, he had thrown some sand in its gears.

According to a person briefed on Mr. Trump’s meeting with other NATO leaders, Mr. Trump said that if the other countries did not increase military spending to 2 percent of their economic output by January, the United States “would go it alone.”

But within a few hours, Emmanuel Macron, the French president, and Giuseppe Conte, Italy’s prime minister, said the allies had simply agreed to keep a 2014 commitment to increase military spending to 2 percent of gross domestic product by 2024.

“A communiqué was issued yesterday,” Mr. Macron told reporters after the meeting in Brussels. “This communiqué is clear. It reaffirms the 2 percent by 2024 commitments. That’s all.”

Mr. Conte said: “Italy inherited spending commitments to NATO, commitments that we did not change, so no increase in spending. As far as we’re concerned, today we did not decide to offer extra contributions with respect to what was decided some time ago.”

Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, said that her country would consider more spending, but she said nothing about any new commitments. And she undercut the notion that reconsideration of Germany’s defense budget was due simply to American pressure.

Katie Rogers, Julie Hirschfeld Davis and Steven Erlanger

Other NATO leaders mostly refrained from responding to Mr. Trump’s disdain and criticism, but the body language at the summit meeting said plenty, and it was not a message of warmth and harmony.

[Read more about the awkwardness of the summit meeting here.]

As the leaders walked to the site of a group photograph, many of them chatting easily with one another, Mr. Trump hung back, with the president of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

When they took their assigned spots, Mr. Trump stood near the center, but his counterparts mostly ignored him, giving him no more than sidelong glances, even as several of them continued conversing.

A number of news organizations noted the awkwardness, drawing rebukes from White House aides, who called it “fake news.”

Hours after Mr. Trump castigated Germany, he met with Chancellor Angela Merkel, then the two of them briefed reporters on their conversation. The president smiled and spoke of a “very, very good relationship;” the chancellor did not. — Katie Rogers

American presidents have long pressed their NATO counterparts to increase military spending. But Mr. Trump’s insistence that the other nations owe money misstates how the alliance works, and the figures he cites are misleading.

(Our reporters fact-checked the president’s claims on the financial relationship between the United States and other NATO countries.)

NATO has a budget to cover shared costs and some equipment used in joint operations, and all 29 member countries contribute to it. None of the allies has failed to pay its contribution.

Mr. Trump’s complaint is that, while NATO member countries have agreed to spend at least 2 percent of their gross domestic products on military spending, most do not. But none has violated that agreement, because the 2 percent figure is a target to be reached by 2024.

According to NATO, all members have significantly raised military spending since 2014, and eight are expected to meet the goal this year.

Mr. Trump tweeted on Monday that the United States accounted for 90 percent of military spending by NATO countries, but the alliance says the real figure is about 67 percent. And most American military spending is not NATO-related.

Even so, the organization says on its website, “There is an overreliance by the alliance as a whole on the United States for the provision of essential capabilities, including, for instance, in regard to intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; air-to-air refueling; ballistic missile defense; and airborne electronic warfare.”

Julie Hirschfeld Davis and Steven Erlanger

Mr. Trump’s first summit meeting with the Russian president will be parsed for countless layers of meaning.

The West’s stance toward Russia is, as always, a central topic at the NATO meeting, and the United States’ European allies are worried that Mr. Trump aims to reduce the American security role in dealing with Moscow.

Russia is waging a proxy war against Ukraine, has forcibly annexed part of that country, has meddled in other nations’ elections, gives crucial support to the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, and stands accused of using a chemical weapon on British soil.

Mr. Trump’s 2016 campaign is under investigation for links to Russia, and Mr. Trump, who is quick to aim a barb at almost anyone else, has been reluctant to criticize Mr. Putin. Yet he and his aides bristle at accusations that he is not tough enough with the Kremlin.

The meeting with Mr. Putin will be closely analyzed for signs that Mr. Trump is friendlier to his Russian counterpart than to the leaders he is meeting in Brussels.

Read More at The New York Times