Prime minister says US president’s speculation that perpetrators were known to police is unhelpful
Theresa May has rebuked Donald Trump for suggesting the people responsible for the explosion on a London tube train were known to the Metropolitan police.
Theresa May rebukes Trump over his Parsons Green comments
The prime minister expressed her frustration as she spoke for the first time about the “cowardly attack” at Parsons Green on Friday that injured at least 22 people.
Trump claimed on Twitter that the terrorist attack involved “sick and demented people who were in the sights of Scotland Yard”, despite no such information having been released publicly by the police. He also blamed the attack on “loser terrorists”, promoted his travel ban and advocated a “proactive and nasty” policy against Islamic State.
Asked about Trump’s potential breach of convention on intelligence sharing, May was unusually critical of her US counterpart, saying: “I never think it’s helpful for anybody to speculate on what is an ongoing investigation.”
When the president tweeted, no suspect had been identified nor had any group claimed responsibility for the blast.
The Met police said the president’s comments were unhelpful and “pure speculation”.
There was no immediate response from the White House to questions about the basis of Trump’s assertion.
Speaking outside the White House later on Friday, Trump said he planned to speak to May but made no reference to her rebuke. “It’s a terrible thing,” he said. “It just keeps going and going, and we have to be very smart, we have to be very, very tough. Perhaps we are not nearly tough enough.
“It’s just an absolutely terrible thing. In fact, I’m going to call the prime minister right now. We have to be tougher and we have to be smarter.”
In the wake of the Manchester Arena bombing in May, British police temporarily suspended intelligence-sharing with the US, following a series of leaks to US media.
CBS disclosed the name of the bomber, Salman Abedi, citing US sources, at a time when British authorities were asking media to withhold the information to protect the investigation. The New York Times then published detailed photographs of the bomb scene that had been taken by British investigators.
On Friday, Nick Timothy, a newspaper columnist who was formerly May’s chief of staff, wrote on Twitter of Trump’s remarks: “True or not – and I’m sure he doesn’t know – this is so unhelpful from leader of our ally and intelligence partner.”
Eighteen people were taken to hospital after the explosion, which happened at the Parsons Green station in west London and was being treated as an isolated incident. Four people took themselves to hospitals. The London ambulance service said: “None are thought to be in a serious or life-threatening condition.”
Trump’s intervention also carried echoes of his tweets after the London Bridge attack in June, when he criticised Sadiq Khan’s call for calm.
In a statement, the London mayor confirmed that Friday’s explosion was being treated as terrorism and said: “I urge all Londoners to be calm and vigilant.”
At a morning press briefing, the Metropolitan police assistant commissioner, Mark Rowley, said: “We now assess that this was a detonation of an improvised explosive device. As you will have seen, there are reports of 18 injuries. I understand most of those to be flash burns.”
Rowley said the investigation was being led by the Metropolitan police counter-terrorism command, supported by MI5. Police officers would be deployed across the capital’s transport network, he said.
Around the time Rowley spoke, the president tweeted: “Another attack in Londonby a loser terrorist. These are sick and demented people who were in the sights of Scotland Yard. Must be proactive!
“Loser terrorists must be dealt with in a much tougher manner. The internet is their main recruitment tool which we must cut off & use better!”
Trump continued: “The travel ban into the United States should be far larger, tougher and more specific – but stupidly, that would not be politically correct!”
Trump’s travel ban against refugees and others from six majority-Muslim countries is in force but not in full effect, as court challenges on constitutional grounds continue. A first version, against seven countries, was withdrawn after similar challenges.
“We have made more progress in the last nine months against Isis than the Obama Administration has made in 8 years,” Trump added. “Must be proactive & nasty!”