Boris Johnson has basked in President Trump's praise, touting Trump's endorsement as yet another reason why he should succeed Theresa May as Britain's next prime minister. But when the opportunity arose for Johnson to meet Trump, the former foreign secretary snubbed the leader of the free world, saying he was "too busy" to meet with him.
Over the weekend, Trump praised Johnson as a "friend" and as a "very talented" politician with whom the US might be able to negotiate a sweeping trade deal (Trump has repeatedly brought up the possibility of a trade deal during his trip, to the delight of Brexiteers who are pushing for a 'no deal' exit from the EU). Trump has also compared Johnson favorably to Theresa May (much, we imagine, to the prime minister's chagrin).
But during a Tuesday morning phone call, Johnson reportedly turned down the opportunity for a one-on-one meeting with Trump because of a Conservative leadership hustings event, according to ITV reporter Robert Peston.
A spokesman for Johnson's office told British media that the decision was intended to show just how seriously Johnson - who is far and away the favorite to win the Tory leadership contest - is taking the race.
.@BorisJohnson has had a 20 minute phone chat with @realDonaldTrump this morning but declined face-to-face meeting this evening because clashed with One Nation leadership hustings. See attached pic.twitter.com/3hk9yyY17w— Robert Peston (@Peston) June 4, 2019
The two spoke on the phone for 20 minutes, and Johnson told Trump he looked forward to meeting at a later date.
However, there's reason to suspect that the snub was a calculated political maneuver. Polls show Trump isn't particularly popular with British voters, though Johnson remains the most popular conservative in the country.
You will find more infographics at Statista
Instead of meeting with Johnson, Trump will now instead meet with one of his leading rivals, Environmental Secretary Michael Gove, who interviewed Trump in the days before his inauguration. At the time, Gove was working as a columnist for the Rupert Murdoch-owned Times of London.
Trump might also find time to meet with Nigel Farage, whom he recently recommended should be sent to Brussels to lead the next round of Brexit deal talks.