“We’re respected all over the world,” Donald Trump told an audience of young Republican operatives in Washington on Tuesday. By way of example, he cited the votes of 92,153 members of the British Conservative Party who chose his ally Boris Johnson to be their party’s new leader — paving the way for the man who led the Brexit campaign to succeed Theresa May as prime minister.
“A really good man is going to be the prime minister of the U.K. now, Boris Johnson,” Trump said. “He’s tough and he’s smart. They’re saying, ‘Britain Trump.’ They call him ‘Britain Trump.’ And people are saying that’s a good thing. They like me over there, that’s what they wanted. That’s what they need.”
Trump’s praise for Johnson suggests that no one in his inner circle has yet worked up the courage to show him the video of the former mayor of London denouncing Trump, during the 2016 campaign, as “clearly out of his mind.” In late 2015, when Trump first called for “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States,” Johnson stood in front of a television camera to express his disgust.
“You can’t ban people going to the United States in that way, or indeed to any country,” Johnson, then London’s mayor, said two days after Trump’s December 7, 2015, campaign speech where he suggested closing America’s borders to Muslims.
Referring to Trump’s subsequent claim that his ban was justified because immigrants had made parts of London “no go zones” for non-Muslims, including police officers, Johnson went on to say that Trump was “betraying a quite stupefying ignorance that makes him frankly unfit to hold the office of president of the United States.”
Johnson’s presumed ability to forge a closer relationship with Trump than his predecessor Theresa May is considered important for the pro-Brexit members of his party, who hope that a free-trade deal with the United States could help the U.K. offset some of the economic self-harm caused by withdrawing from the European Union.
During his campaign for the Conservative Party leadership — a contest in which less than 0.3 percent of the British public had a vote — Johnson was careful to avoid antagonizing Trump. Notably, he refused to defend Britain’s ambassador in Washington, Kim Darroch, after the envoy’s private analysis of dysfunction in Trump’s White House was leaked to a pro-Brexit journalist. Johnson’s failure to stand up for the ambassador, who was being bullied by Trump on Twitter, triggered Darroch’s decision to resign.
During a recent BBC discussion of Trump’s fury at the ambassador, one of Johnson’s supporters, Dominic Raab, was asked why those leaked cables were so much worse than calling the American president stupefyingly ignorant.