The Fox News segment Trump cited in response to his critics has been discredited. But he’s made similar remarks about Germany and France, linking their intake of refugees and migrants to terrorism. Europe more broadly is grappling with the challenge of integrating large numbers of migrants and refugees, and it’s an issue that has helped fuel far-right parties in several countries. But this year many European governments, including Sweden, have tightened immigration rules, and far-right parties are once again slipping in the polls.
Trump hasn’t tweeted about Sweden since February. In April, Sweden suffered what the Times described as its “worst terrorist attack in decades” when a driver plowed his truck into pedestrians in Stockholm; the man who admitted carrying out the attack was an Uzbek national whose asylum application had been rejected the previous year.
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Trump’s feud with Sadiq Khan, the London mayor, dates back to the presidential campaign. Following the attacks in Paris and San Bernardino in late 2015, the Republican called for a “total and complete shutdown” of Muslims entering the U.S. Khan, the son of Pakistani immigrants to the U.K., called Trump’s remarks about Islam “ignorant,” and said he hoped Hillary Clinton, Trump’s Democratic rival at the time, “trounces him.” Trump told an interviewer that he would “remember those statements. They are very nasty statements.” He did. When a terrorist struck London over the summer, Khan told the city’s residents not to be “alarmed” by the “increased police presence.” Trump seemed to take that remark out of context on Twitter to imply that Khan was underplaying the threat of terrorism.
Trump’s feud with Khan fits his pattern of interaction with the London mayor, but his recent put-down of Theresa May was more surprising. It began when, late last month, Trump retweeted anti-Muslim videos shared by a British far-right group. May said the president was “wrong” to have shared the videos, which purported to show Muslims committing violent acts, and which have dubious provenance or have been debunked. Trump tweeted that her efforts might be better spent preventing “radical Islamic terrorism” in the U.K.
Khan is one of the most popular political figures in the U.K. May not so much. But Trump is so disliked within the country that Brits were united in outrage against his tweets and his rebuke of May. Calls for Trump’s planned state visit to the U.K. to be canceled grew in the wake of the tweets. The lasting damage this particular episode has on U.S.-U.K. relations will likely be small, since, feuds aside, the “special relationship” continues to serve both countries’ interests. Still, that relationship has long been more important to the U.K. than to the U.S. Trump’s tweets make that even more apparent.