Before he departed office, President Barack Obama encouraged British Prime Minister Theresa May to form a close relationship with incoming President Donald Trump, according to a British official familiar with their conversations and a former senior administration official.
Obama hoped she and other center-right leaders could act as a moderating and sobering force on the incoming US President and pressed her to remain in close contact with Trump as he assumed the presidency, the officials said. Obama’s conversations with May included during their final in-person meeting in Berlin in November.
May and Trump are scheduled to meet Friday at the White House, and both world leaders are expected to address the congressional Republicans’ retreat in Philadelphia on Thursday.
May was among the first leaders to congratulate Trump on his upset win in November, and she spoke with Trump shortly after he was inaugurated.
Obama also made the request of Australia’s Malcolm Turnbull during a meeting on the sidelines of his final APEC meeting in Peru.
Obama was wary of Trump’s close ties to the UKIP leader Nigel Farage and believed May could insert herself into that relationship to prevent Trump from getting US-UK advice from someone Obama viewed as disreputable, the officials said.
He hoped that conversations with May, and with other world leaders, might instill in Trump a better sense of how weighty a job the presidency is. Trump, he felt, had a very limited understanding of that.
Due for talks at the White House on Friday, May is coming armed with gifts for the new US president, according to the British Embassy in Washington. She’ll deliver her counterpart a basket laden with produce from Chequers, the Prime Minister’s Buckinghamshire estate, including “apple juice, damson jam, and marmalade, as well as Bake well tarts and cranberry and white chocolate shorties.”
The Embassy said May would also take a moment to appreciate a bust of Winston Churchill that Trump has positioned in the Oval Office.