Wednesday 17 January 2018

Bannon tells EU to expect 'hostility' from Trump

President Donald Trump looks to his daughter Ivanka, right, as he delivers remarks after touring the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture yesterday in Washington. Photo: Kevin Dietsch/Getty
President Donald Trump looks to his daughter Ivanka, right, as he delivers remarks after touring the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture yesterday in Washington. Photo: Kevin Dietsch/Getty

Laura Hughes

A senior aide to US President Donald Trump has warned the European Union that it can expect "hostility" after Brexit, according to reports.

Steve Bannon, the White House chief strategist, is understood to have informed Germany's ambassador to Washington that the new US administration hopes to conduct future relations with Europe on a bilateral basis. The president's aide also told Peter Wittig that he viewed the EU as a flawed construct, sources have told Reuters.

The meeting happened just a week before US Vice President Mike Pence travelled to Brussels to reassure leaders that the Trump administration will maintain and develop decades of partnership in trade and security.

Sources who were briefed on the meeting said the talks between Mr Bannon and Mr Wittig had confirmed the view that European leaders should prepare for a policy of "hostility towards the EU".

The German government and the ambassador, Mr Wittig, declined to comment, citing the confidential nature of the diplomatic talks.

A White House official said that the account provided to Reuters by three sources was inaccurate.

The official said: "They only spoke for about three minutes and it was just a quick hello."

One source told the news agency that the US had demonstrated no appreciation for the EU's role in ensuring peace across Europe.

"There appears to be no understanding in the White House that an unravelling of the EU would have grave consequences," the source said.

Another suggested Mr Bannon's message was similar to comments he made to a Vatican conference in 2014, in which he said people across Europe are yearning for nationalism because they "don't believe in this kind of pan-European Union".

The latest diplomatic incident comes after an outgoing US ambassador suggested that Mr Trump supports the break-up of the EU after Brexit.

Anthony Gardner, who is departing as ambassador to the EU, said that senior figures in Mr Trump's transition team had been asking EU officials which countries will follow Britain in voting to leave the bloc.

Mr Trump has made no secret of his support for Brexit and has repeatedly praised former Ukip leader Nigel Farage.


Meanwhile, Mr Trump has denounced recent threats against Jewish community centres in the US as "horrible" and "painful".

He said the threats were a "very sad reminder of the work that still must be done to root out hate and prejudice and evil".

He was speaking after touring the newly opened National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington.

"This tour was a meaningful reminder of why we have to fight bigotry, intolerance and hatred in all of its very ugly forms," Mr Trump said.

His comments about threats at Jewish community centres across the country marked the first time he had directly addressed a wave of anti-Semitism and followed a more general White House denouncement of "hatred and hate-motivated violence".

That statement earlier yesterday did not mention the community centre incidents or Jews. Mr Trump "has made it abundantly clear that these actions are unacceptable", the statement said.

The FBI said it is joining the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division to investigate "possible civil rights violations in connection with threats" to the centres.

On Monday, Mr Trump's daughter Ivanka wrote on Twitter: "We must protect our houses of worship & religious centres," and used the hashtag #JCC. She converted to Judaism ahead of her 2009 marriage to Jared Kushner.

She joined her father at the African American museum tour.

The White House was criticised by Jewish groups last month after issuing an International Holocaust Remembrance Day statement that did not mention Jews.

On Monday, 11 Jewish community centres across the country received phoned-in bomb threats, according to the JCC Association of North America.

Like three waves of similar calls in January, the threats proved to be hoaxes, the association said in a statement.

All of the affected centres have returned to normal operations. (© Daily Telegraph London)

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