President Donald Trump canceled a trip to the new U.S. embassy in London, claiming that it was because he's "not a fan" of the building. The move allows Trump to sidestep widespread protests that were planned for him.
He disparaged the new U.S. embassy in Nine Elms in a late Thursday Twitter post.
"I'm 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," Trump said on Twitter. "Wanted me to cut ribbon — NO!"
Donald Trump's tweet: 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!
While Trump called out the Obama administration, the decision to acquire a new London embassy site on the south bank of the Thames was actually announced in 2008 under George W. Bush along with the plans to put the Grosvenor Square site in Mayfair up for sale.
Britons planned large-scale protests against Trump during his trip to the city, where he is deeply unpopular. Unrest during the president's visit would be an embarrassment for the United States, which has been one of the U.K.'s closest allies for a century.
The prior embassy at 24 Grosvenor Square in central London was sold in 2009 — during Obama's time in office — to Qatari Diar, a subsidiary of sovereign wealth fund Qatar Investment for an estimated 500 million pounds ($677 million), according to a 2016 report by the Evening Standard.
The building, completed in 1957, is one of the early works of architect Eero Saarinen and was given protected status by English Heritage in 2009. Protected buildings face restrictions in the way they can be refurbished, which could reduce their sale price.
The U.S. had actually mulled a sale of the Grosvenor Square site before Obama was elected as President due to security concerns. In fact, the decision to move the embassy to Nine Elms in south London was made by the George W. Bush Administration.
Trump was scheduled to make his first official visit to the U.K. next month. His itinerary had included a meeting with British Prime Minister Theresa May and possibly the queen.
Activists had pledged mass demonstrations and some Members of Parliament were determined not to give Trump the opportunity to address the legislative body, according to the report.
— CNBC's Christina Wilkie, Ted Kemp and Reuters contributed reporting.