President Donald Trump tried to explain via Twitter early Friday morning why he canceled his upcoming trip to the UK by shifting blame to the Obama administration — but what he said was a lie.
British media began to report on Thursday that Trump’s “working visit” to the UK in February — during which he would be present for the opening of the new U.S. Embassy in southwest London’s Nine Elms district — had been canceled because of there wasn’t enough grandeur and possibly because of concerns over mass protests. It was reported that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson would be going in his stead.
Instead, Trump blamed one of his favorite targets, the Obama administration.
“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,” Trump said. “Bad deal. Wanted me to cut ribbon-NO!”
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
Unfortunately for Trump, the decision to move the embassy had little to do with the Obama administration.
The decision to move the embassy to Nine Elms first began in 2008 — before Obama was elected — when former President George W. Bush’s State Department announced it had reached a deal with a developer to purchase the property.
“This has been a long and careful process,” then-U.S. Ambassador to the UK Robert Tuttle had said. “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.”
The Grosvenor Square embassy was an outlier among U.S. diplomatic sites in that instead of the U.S. owning the building outright, it was used via a lease arrangement with the Duke of Westminster — whereas just about every other American diplomatic mission is owned by the U.S.
The Duke of Windsor would only sell the property to the U.S. if it returned family land confiscated during the American Revolution.
The U.S. sold its lease of the property to a Qatari firm in 2009. The Grosvenor Square building, dating back to the 1960’s, had been awarded listed status, and therefore its design could not be changed. Officials in 2008 said the dated building could not accommodate necessary security design updates. According to CNN, local media reports indicate the property was sold for around 500 million pounds, and the new building was funded entirely by the sale of other U.S. properties in London.
Woody Johnson, the U.S. Ambassador to the UK appointed by Trump, spoke highly of the project just last month, saying “the global outlook of the U.S. going forward in the 21st century: rather looking out, than looking in.”