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In a tweet sent just before midnight late Thursday night, President Donald Trump announced his intention to forgo a long-rumored trip to London, where he would have dedicated the new U.S. embassy.
Trump explained his decision by blaming the Obama administration for the initial embassy move and called the sale of the old embassy a “bad deal.”
Reason I canceled my trip to London is that I am not a big fan of the Obama Administration having sold perhaps the best located and finest embassy in London for “peanuts,” only to build a new one in an off location for 1.2 billion dollars. Bad deal. Wanted me to cut ribbon-NO!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 12, 2018
But there are more than a few problems with the president's explanation.
When the decision was made to move the U.S. embassy in London, Barack Obama was simply a candidate hoping to succeed George W. Bush. The Bush administration made the decision in large part due to security concerns with the current facility at Grosvenor Square.
Security at the embassy located in the upscale Mayfair neighborhood of London had been ramped up in the 1990s and again post-9/11, much to the chagrin of the Americans' affluent British neighbors in London's West End.
Road closures and concrete barriers helped secure the location from modern terrorist threats that hadn't been thought of in the past, but a new facility was deemed necessary to fully secure the American delegation in London.
“We looked at all our options, including renovation of our current building on Grosvenor Square. In the end, we realized that the goal of a modern, secure and environmentally sustainable Embassy could best be met by constructing a new facility,“ then-Ambassador Robert Tuttle said of the decision. ”I’m excited about America playing a role in the regeneration of the South Bank of London.”
As for the president's claim of “peanuts,” details of the sale were never fully confirmed. However, as noted by the Independent, “peanuts” might not be fully accurate:
The price that the old building went for was never disclosed. But estimates put the value of the sale to the investment arm of the Qatari royal family at about £500 million, roughly in line with the expected cost of the new US embassy building at the time, though considerably more than it actually cost, as we'll get to shortly.
The President's expertise in real investment and his claims to be good at making deals might have enabled him to get more for the sale. But it's hard to describe half a billion pounds as “peanuts.”
Ever since talk of a Trump trip to London began, speculation has swirled the president would be met with massive protests. The holes in his explanation for skipping out on the trip have only added more fuel to that fire, as evidenced by a statement from London Mayor Sadiq Khan:
Many Londoners have made it clear that Donald Trump is not welcome here while he is pursuing such a divisive agenda. It seems he’s finally got that message. pic.twitter.com/YD0ZHuWtr3
— Sadiq Khan (@SadiqKhan) January 12, 2018
“His visit next month would without doubt have been met by mass peaceful protests,” Khan said of Trump. “This just reinforces what a mistake it was for Theresa May to rush and extend an invitation of a state visit in the first place.”
“Let's hope that Donald Trump also revisits the pursuit of his divisive agenda,” Khan added.
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