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By Rachel Elbaum
LONDON — Just before landing in the U.K. on Monday morning, President Donald Trump started his state visit by insulting a senior politician on Twitter, calling the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan a “stone cold loser” who has done a “terrible job.”
He went on to say that “Khan reminds me very much of our very dumb and incompetent Mayor of NYC, de Blasio, who has also done a terrible job — only half his height.”
His comments came after Khan wrote an opinion piece in The Observer newspaper on Sunday condemning Trump’s state visit and grouping him together with far-right leaders in Europe.
“It’s so un-British to be rolling out the red carpet this week for a formal state visit for a president whose divisive behaviour flies in the face of the ideals America was founded upon — equality, liberty and religious freedom,” wrote Khan, who is the son of a Pakistani bus driver.
“At what point should we stop appeasing — and implicitly condoning — his far-right policies and views? Where do we draw the line?” he continued.
It wasn’t the first time that the mayor, who is Muslim, has criticized the president. After Trump suggested a ban on Muslims entering in the U.S. during his campaign for president, the then newly installed mayor said he wanted “to educate Donald Trump. I want to show him that you can be Muslim and be Western.”
Then, just after the June 2017 terror attack in London Trump criticized Khan, seemingly misunderstanding the mayor’s remarks about the attack and calling them a “pathetic excuse.”
Khan then called for the offer of a state visit to be rescinded.
Trump’s tweets about the mayor on Monday came after Trump spent the last few days inserting himself into British politics, breaching the diplomatic custom that heads of state don’t meddle in the domestic affairs of the nations they are visiting.
Over the weekend, Trump endorsed former London Mayor Boris Johnson who is currently the favorite to succeed Conservative party leader and Prime Minister Theresa May, who is stepping down as party leader Friday.
He also criticized the American-born Duchess of Sussex, the former Meghan Markle, saying that “he didn’t know that she was nasty,” after hearing comments she made during the 2016 campaign against him.
The mayor didn’t respond directly to Trump’s tweets, but a statement from his office said the comments “should be beneath the President of the United States.”
“Sadiq is representing the progressive values of London and our country warning that Donald Trump is the most egregious example of a growing far-right threat around the globe,” the statement read.
British politicians were quick to condemn Trump’s comments, with one opposition Labour lawmaker suggesting Trump’s opposition to Khan stemmed from the mayor’s religion.
“Wonder why you have a problem with London’s first ever Muslim mayor?” tweeted David Lammy, who represents a north London constituency and is outspoken on race issues.
“Doesn’t help Britain to be lavishing pomp on a President so determined to be divisive, childish & destructive,” tweeted senior Labour politician Yvette Cooper.
During the visit, Trump will be treated to a display of British royal pageantry including lunch and a formal state dinner with the queen, tea with Prince Charles, and a tour of Westminster Abbey, coronation church of English monarchs for 1,000 years.
He will also commemorate the 75th anniversary of the World War Two D-Day landings.
He was greeted at the airport by foreign minister and Conservative leadership candidate Jeremy Hunt, who said that Trump had mentioned the mayor to him on arrival.
“He wasn’t exactly saying that he’s going to be inviting Sadiq Khan for royal treatment at the White House any time soon,” Hunt told the BBC, declining to give further details of the conversation.