The Slatest

Trump Goes to War With Europe’s Political Establishment

Prime Minister Theresa May and U.S. President Donald Trump leave after a joint press conference following their meeting at Chequers on July 13, 2018 in Aylesbury, England.
U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May and U.S. President Donald Trump leave after a joint press conference following their meeting on Friday in Aylesbury, England.
WPA Pool/Getty Images

In many ways, Donald Trump’s remarks about immigration in his explosive interview with the British tabloid the Sun don’t break much new ground. It is, of course, startling to hear a U.S.
president say things like, “Allowing the immigration to take place in Europe is a shame. I think it changed the fabric of Europe and, unless you act very quickly, it’s never going to be what it was, and I don’t mean that in a positive way.” Or, “I think you are losing your culture. Look around. You go through certain areas that didn’t exist ten or 15 years ago.”

The comments have sparked outrage, but Trump’s been on this theme for a while. Remember when he cited his friend Jim’s claim that “Paris is no longer Paris”? Or his speech in Poland about how the West needs to “protect our borders” in order to “preserve our civilization”? Or his tweet just last month about how immigration to Germany has “violently changed their culture”?

But what feels different now is that Trump is not only adopting the language and ideology of Europe’s far-right leaders—arguably going farther than what many of them are willing to say in public—but is also directly inserting himself into other countries’ domestic, partisan disputes.

Trump’s last twitter outburst against Angela Merkel came during a contentious showdown between the chancellor and her right-wing interior minister, Horst Seehofer, over border controls, which briefly threatened to bring down her government, and followed shortly after his ambassador to Germany, Ric Grennell, saying that he saw it as part of his role to “empower conservatives throughout Europe.”

The Sun interview not only follows Trump’s wrecking ball performance at this week’s NATO summit, it also comes a few days after several of May’s top ministers resigned in protest of her government’s new Brexit plan, which to their mind leaves to many EU ties and regulations in place. Trump endorses this view saying that May “wrecked” Brexit and questioning whether the U.S. could now reach a post-EU trade deal with the U.K. “I actually told Theresa May how to do it but she didn’t agree, she didn’t listen to me,” he said. He also said that former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, the most prominent politician to resign, “would be a great prime minister.” We’ve known for some time that Trump shares the ideology of Europe’s far right and its hostility to the European political establishment. But now he appears to be working in concert with these radicals to undermine that establishment.