President Trump Cancels London Trip, Blames Obama For Embassy Deal

By Staff Reporter
Posted on 01/12/18 | News Source: NBC News

LONDON — President Donald Trump has canceled a trip to London to open the new U.S. Embassy, blaming the Obama administration for selling the old building in the city for "peanuts."

He criticized the move from "perhaps the best located and finest embassy," even though the relocation was initiated under the George W. Bush administration in 2008 amid wider security concerns after terror attacks such as the 1998 embassy bombings in Tanzania and Kenya.

Trump's decision was greeted with relief by London's Mayor Sadiq Khan, who said the president had "finally got the message" that he was not welcome in the British capital.

The looming trip — and a state visit for which no date has been set — threatened to be a security headache for authorities who feared mass protests.

A recent poll commissioned by The Independent newspaper found 48 percent of British people believe the U.K. should withdraw the invitation for a full state visit, and more than 1.8 million people signed a petition to stop it from going ahead.

The new embassy, in a purpose-built site in London's regenerated Nine Elms district, was designed with security in mind.

The existing facility, in Mayfair's Grosvenor Square, is not set back from the road and unsightly barricades were installed around it after 9/11.

Robert Tuttle, then the U.S. ambassador, said of the decision to move: “We realized that the goal of a modern, secure and environmentally sustainable embassy could best be met by constructing a new facility.”

Nine Elms is slated to become London's new embassy district, but its location south of the River Thames is seen as less fashionable than Mayfair; Trump called the new site an "off location."

He said on Twitter: "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."

An embassy statement said the cost of the new building had been funded entirely from the proceeds of the sale of other U.S. government properties in London and "not through appropriated funds."

In 2015 Lydia Muniz, the director of the bureau of overseas building operations at the State Department, said that upgrading the existing embassy would have cost $550 million and it still would not be as secure as the new site, according to The Associated Press.

The current American ambassador, Robert "Woody" Johnson, said last month that the $1 billion building was designed to be both welcoming and secure and described it as a "bargain."

The old embassy building has been sold to a Qatari-owned development firmthat has proposed transforming it into a luxury hotel. Under the plans, the building will be refurbished into a 137-room five-star hotel and spa, featuring five restaurants and six high-end shops.

The value of the deal has not been released but the Canadian High Commission, a much smaller building also on Grosvenor Square, sold in 2013 for almost $500 million, according to the AP. Read more at NBC News