British Prime Minister Theresa May and President Donald Trump respond to a question during a joint press conference in the East Room of the White House on Friday. During the briefing, which followed May's first meeting with Trump as U.S. president, expressed hope that British-U.S. relations will improve under their leadership. Photo by Pat Benic/UPI | License Photo
Jan. 27 (UPI) -- President Donald Trump began showing his diplomatic side on Friday during a joint news conference with British Prime Minister Theresa May at the White House.
May, Britain's leader since July, visited Trump for the first time since his election and spoke positively about the potential for U.S.-British relations in the near future.
During a joint press briefing, the leaders were asked about various questions about international plans and how the two nations will work together:
Trump was asked at one point whether he intended to bring back controversial interrogations of terror suspects, such as waterboarding, since he believes some of those methods are an effective tool.
The president said he is open to a return to more aggressive techniques, which were utilized under George W. Bush's administration and later criticized, but emphasized that it will be up to Defense Secretary James Mattis.
"[Mattis] has stated publicly that he does not necessarily believe in torture," the president answered. "I don't necessarily agree, but I would tell you that he would override because I'm giving him that power. He's an expert.
"I happen to feel that [aggressive interrogation] does work. I have been open about that for a long period of time."
May indicated that she differs with Trump on the issue.
"There will be times when we will disagree and [there will be] issues on which we disagree," she said, adding that she believes the U.S.-British relationship will improve with Trump's leadership. "The point of the special relationship is that we are able to have that open and frank discussion."
Russia and Vladimir Putin
Much has been made in the media of Trump's alleged ties to Russia, and on Friday the president attempted to make clear his intention to treat Moscow in whatever way fits the best interests of the United States.
"I don't say good, bad or indifferent," he said of Russian President Vladimir Putin. "I don't know him. I hope we have a fantastic relationship. ... it's also possible that we won't. We will see what happens."
Russia has been at the center of the news for weeks for its purported attempts to interfere in the U.S. presidential election and help get Trump elected. The U.S. intelligence community has concluded that Putin directly ordered the interference to avert a potential Hillary Clinton administration.
"If we have a great relationship with Russia and other countries, and if we go after [the Islamic State] together ... I will consider that a good thing -- not a bad thing," Trump continued. "I will be representing the American people very, very strongly. Very forcefully."
"I've had many times when I thought I would get along with people, and I don't like them at all," he added. "And I've had some where I didn't think we'd have much of a relationship and it turned out to be a great relationship.
"So, Theresa, we never know about those things, do we?"
Mexico and the Wall
Trump said he spoke to Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto on the phone for about an hour Friday, during which they discussed the controversial border wall -- now set to begin construction within weeks.
"We had a very good call," Trump said. "I have been very strong on Mexico."
Wednesday, Trump signed two executive orders on immigration -- one of which directed government agencies to prepare for the immediate construction of a wall to keep drugs and undocumented migrants out of the United States. In return, Nieto canceled a scheduled trip to the White House next week -- amid Trump's repeated insistence that Mexico will pay for the wall.
"The border is soft and weak, drugs are pouring in and I'm not going to let that happen," Trump said.
The president also reiterated that the United States will renegotiate trade deals with its southern neighbor, with which it has a $60 billion trade deficit, and lamented that Mexico's government has "beat us to a pulp through our past leaders."
"The United States cannot continue to lose a vast amount of business, vast amount of companies and millions and millions of people losing their jobs. That won't happen with me," he said. "We are no longer going to be a country that doesn't know what it's doing."
"The relationship between the United States and Mexico is a matter for the United States and Mexico," May said simply.
Brexit and British Support
Trump was asked how he planned to help Britain with its departure from the European Union, and how May can trust the new U.S. leader.
"I'm not as brash as you might think," Trump quipped. "Brexit was an example of what was to come."
"I think Brexit is going to be a wonderful thing for your country. When it irons out, you are going to have your own identity," Trump told May, saying that getting things done through the European Union was far too difficult.
May, who has taken criticism in Great Britain for her handling of the EU departure, indicated that she views Trump as a solid ally who will stand with her country on a variety of important matters.
"One of the things we have in common is that we want to put the interests of the ordinary working people right up there, center stage," May added. "It's that interest in ensuring that what we do ... work[s] for everyone in our countries. I think we both share that."