Prime Minister Theresa May and President Trump worked on Friday to repair the damage after she was left with a deepening political crisis and a diplomatic embarrassment by a bombshell interview with The Sun that was published on Thursday.
At a news conference at her country estate, Chequers, Mrs. May accentuated the positive, saying “no two countries do more together than ours to keep their people safe and prosperous,” and gave no hint of anger about the interview that seriously undermined her.
With the “special relationship” thrown into doubt by the interview, Mr. Trump said that ties between the two were at the “highest level of special” and said “this incredible woman right here is doing a fantastic job.”
Those comments were sharply at odds with his views expressed in his interview with The Sun, in which Mr. Trump castigated Mrs. May for her approach to the British withdrawal from the European Union and warned that it could jeopardize a much-sought trade deal for Britain, but on Friday he expressed the opposite view.
“I don’t know what they’re going to do,” Mr. Trump said, “but whatever you do is O.K. with me, that’s their decision.” He later remarked that it was a “tough decision,” but emphasized that he wanted a fair deal on trade, complaining that the European Union treats the United States “horribly” and complaining that there are “barriers that are beyond belief.”
And, for her part, Mrs. May, whose grip on power has been called into question as she tries to determine the course of her country’s departure from the European Union, used the occasion to defend her approach.
“This does deliver on the vote of the British people. The British people voted to leave the European Union,” she said. “As we leave the European Union we will be delivering what people voted on: an end to free movement, an end to sending vast amounts of money to the European Union, an end to jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice.”
Mr. Trump also complained that the interview with The Sun failed to properly capture the full nature of his views of Brexit and the prime minister. “I didn’t criticize the prime minister,” he said. “I have a lot of respect for the prime minister. Unfortunately, there was a story that was done which was generally fine but it didn’t put in what I said about the prime minister.”
Mr. Trump caused turmoil at a NATO summit meeting a day earlier, complaining about the military spending commitments of alliance members, and he specifically cited Mrs. May’s support in that area on Friday.
“The prime minister was right there with me,” he said.
Mr. Trump will head to Helsinki, Finland, on Monday for meetings with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, and he said he would raise the question of election meddling, but he also seemed to suggest that there would be little to learn.
“I don’t think you’ll have any ‘Gee I did it, I did it, you got me.’ I don’t think you’ll have any Perry Mason here,” he said, referring to a fictional lawyer on an American television show. “But I absolutely will ask the question.”
An independent counsel in the United States has been looking into whether Trump associates aided Russia’s election interference, and the question of whether Mr. Trump has been tough enough on Moscow has been a delicate one.
“I guarantee you, whoever it is in Russia,” he said, “I guarantee they’re saying ‘Oh gee we wish Trump was not the victor in that election.’ ”
Pointing to the response after Britain expelled Russian diplomats after the poisoning of a former Soviet spy and his daughter in Russia, he said that Germany had kicked out only three Russian diplomats, and that the United States ordered the removal of 60.