LONDON – President Donald Trump says he has decided not to come to London to open the new U.S. Embassy, blaming the Obama administration for doing a “bad deal” to move the diplomatic mission.
Here’s a look at some of the assertions in his late-night tweet:
TRUMP: “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. Wanted me to cut ribbon-NO!”
OBAMA WAS ARCHITECT OF EMBASSY MOVE?
The decision to move the embassy from its historic location in London’s Grosvenor Square was made under President George W. Bush and announced in October 2008.
The main reason cited was security: U.S. officials said it would have taken several years and hundreds of millions of dollars to bring the old embassy, completed in 1960, up to standard. The new building is also larger and more energy efficient.
Then-Ambassador Robert Tuttle said: “We realized that the goal of a modern, secure and environmentally sustainable embassy could best be met by constructing a new facility.”
OLD BUILDING WAS SOLD FOR “PEANUTS”?
Although the decision was not made under Obama, Trump is correct to say that the sale of the embassy was completed during the Obama administration. The building was sold in 2009 to a Qatari government investment fund, which plans to turn it into a hotel.
The price hasn’t been revealed. Another U.S diplomatic building on Grosvenor Square, the Navy Annex, was sold in 2007 for 250 million pounds (almost $500 million at the time). The Canadian High Commission, a much smaller building also on Grosvenor Square, was sold in 2013 for almost $500 million.
NEW EMBASSY IN AN “OFF” LOCATION?
The new embassy is certainly located in a less-central and less-prestigious location. The old embassy is in wealthy Mayfair, an area of elegant Georgian buildings full of expensive hotels, restaurants and boutiques.
The new one is in Nine Elms, a former industrial area on the south side of the River Thames that is being redeveloped as a commercial and residential district. Warehouses and vacant lots are being replaced with office buildings and luxury apartments, including in the landmark but long-derelict Battersea Power Station.
Developers hope that in the future the area will be as fashionable as Mayfair. And U.S. officials have pointed out that the new embassy is just as close to Parliament and other government buildings as the old site.
THE BUILDING COST $1.2 BILLION?
The U.S. Embassy says the new building cost $1 billion, funded entirely through the sale of other U.S. properties in London. Last month, Ambassador Woody Johnson, who was appointed by Trump, called it a “bargain.”
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