Politics

Boris Johnson defends close relationship with Donald Trump ahead of president’s impeachment vote

Boris Johnson has defended his close relationship with Donald Trump, just hours before the outgoing president became the first US leader to be impeached twice.

The prime minister said he was in favour of the UK having “the best possible relationship” with the president of the United States.

Critics of Mr Johnson have long questioned the wisdom of the PM seeking close ties with a controversial president who has experienced a tumultuous four years in the White House.

Mr Trump’s loss to Joe Biden in November’s presidential election emboldened such opponents.

And last week’s riot at the US Capitol, which the president is accused of inciting, has prompted renewed focus on Downing Street’s handling of the former business tycoon.

Labour’s shadow foreign secretary Lisa Nandy has accused senior Tories of “sycophancy” in their dealings with the Trump administration.

“Ministers were so eager to swallow the Trump playbook of how politics should be done that they abandoned British values, interests and their own self-respect,” she said.

But supporters of the PM’s approach, including many within his Conservative Party, argue that maintaining the “special relationship” between London and Washington is more important than individual personalities.

Appearing in front of the Liaison Committee of senior MPs, Mr Johnson was asked about remarks from 2018, when he said Mr Trump would be worthy of consideration for the Nobel Peace Prize if he was able to “fix North Korea and the Iran nuclear deal“.

Petitions Committee chair Catherine McKinnell asked him: “Given recent events do you regret saying in 2018 that Donald Trump is worthy of a Nobel Peace Prize?”

Mr Johnson replied: “I’m in favour of the prime minister of the UK having the best possible relationship with the president of the United States and I had an excellent conversation very recently with President-elect Joe Biden.”

The PM was speaking ahead of a vote in the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives to impeach Mr Trump for a second time.

A single article of impeachment charges the president with “incitement of insurrection” over his comments in the run-up to the Capitol Hill riot that left five people dead.

Mr Trump urged supporters to “fight like hell” against the election result, having baselessly claimed for weeks that victory had been stolen from him.

His backers stormed the building as the results of the 2020 election were formalised by Congress.

The PM said the president was “completely wrong” to encourage supporters to storm the Capitol and question the legitimacy of the election.

“I think what President Trump has been saying about that has been completely wrong,” Mr Johnson said.

“I unreservedly condemn encouraging people to behave in the disgraceful way that they did in the Capitol.

“And all I can say is I’m very pleased that the president-elect has now been duly confirmed in office and that democracy has prevailed.”

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