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Before President and Mrs Trump left Stansted Airport for Scotland on July 13, 2018, Piers Morgan — the first winner of the American show Celebrity Apprentice — was granted exclusive access to Air Force One.

Morgan’s world exclusive interview was reported in various news outlets last weekend. The full interview aired on ITV1 on Monday’s edition of Good Morning Britain and again later that evening.

Morgan noted that time was of the essence that day. When Air Force One is at an airport, arrivals and departures are blocked until it leaves. As the Trumps’ visit with the Queen lasted 17 minutes longer than scheduled, they were delayed in getting back to Stansted. Morgan was keenly aware of this. That said, the interview was excellent, as he and the US president are long-time friends.

This is not the first time Morgan has had exclusive interview access:

It need not have been that way in January:

Last week, Morgan received a lot of criticism on Twitter from fellow journalists. As to why he never interviewed Obama:

‘Entertainers’ also had a swipe at Morgan:

Let’s face it, had other journalists been even somewhat objective, they, too, could have interviewed Trump. Only Lincoln Film & Media in England seemed cognisant of this. Well done:

Even Pip Tomson of ITV1’s Good Morning Britain didn’t mind missing a sports filled weekend to put finishing touches on an amazing interview:

Whilst waiting for Trump to return from Windsor Castle, Morgan explained the significance of Air Force One:

Metro gave us an inside scoop from Morgan:

But I’ve got to say, standing there, looking at Air Force One, going up those steps doing a little cheeky wave, which you’re not supposed to do… I thought since he was doing that anyway with the Queen, I thought I could do a bit of protocol breaking myself.

Then you get on this plane, which is just the most high-tech, sophisticated, extraordinary thing that flies in the entire world.

Air Force One staff gave him a tour of the plane:

I’ve been on a few fancy planes in my time but nothing quite like this one.

He pointed out that, when the president is on board:

Morgan wrote an article for the Mail on Sunday about his experience (emphases mine):

‘I’m sorry Mr Morgan, but you can’t sit in that chair. Only the President of the United States of America ever sits in that chair.’

I was in the Situation Room of Air Force One, the airplane used to fly the most powerful human being on earth around the world.

Hannah, the presidential aide tasked with escorting me around it, was very polite but also VERY firm.

‘You can in one of those,’ she suggested, pointing to one of the chairs around the Situation Room desk. ‘They swivel.’

Morgan continued to explore the Situation Room:

Under the TV are three digital clocks. They permanently display the same three times – Washington DC, local time and time in the next destination. To the right of the TV was a brown leather sofa. Two hi-tech phones were behind it.

‘Can I pick one up and call someone?’ I asked, reaching down to phone Lord Sugar and boast about where I was.

‘NO!!!!!’ exclaimed another aide. ‘Do NOT touch those phones… please. Thank you, sir.’

The President’s staff all exude an air of delightfully polite menace.

Morgan then checked out dinner for that Friday evening:

Cucumber Thai salad, a medley of cucumbers, radishes, spicy red chillis, chopped peanuts, basil, cilantro and mint, tossed in a homemade vinaigrette.

Thai baked salmon fillet, baked in sweet chilli sauce over a bed of jasmine rice.

Tarte lemon bar, topped with crunchy shortbread crumbles.

Metro reported:

perhaps the most surprising revelation is that the US president has specially packaged M&Ms – the blue and white striped box even has his signature on the back.

In fact, it turns out the plane is packed with sweets, also including presidential Hershey’s Kisses

‘He’s got an Oval Office there, he’s got a Situation Room, he’s even got his M&Ms. His presidential boxes of M&MS, with Donald J Trump on the back. If you get on Air Force One, you get to eat the M&Ms. Fascinating, fascinating evening.’

Morgan wrote in his aforementioned Mail on Sunday article that the staff were most thoughtful with regard to the chocolates:

‘Can I take some?’ I asked an aide.

‘We’re already ahead of you, Mr Morgan,’ smiled Hannah, handing me a large bag of the M&Ms and a dozen boxes of Air Force One matchboxes. They will solve the perennial ‘what do you get someone who’s got everything?’ birthday present dilemma. Money can’t buy this stuff.

Morgan wrote that, at one point, things got very structured very quickly:

‘The President will be here in 25 minutes,’ said Hannah, escorting me to the Situation Room. ‘Please tell your crew to hurry.’

There was now a controlled, super-efficient frenzy to her behavioural pattern. The ITV crew, who’d all been extensively security screened by the Secret Service, hurried.

No other plane was being allowed to take off or land from Stansted until Air Force One departed. So every second I delayed things meant thousands of members of the public being delayed. That’s an unusual burden for an interviewer who wants to get as much time as he can possibly get from the President when he arrives.

Several senior Air Force One staff came to introduce themselves. They were all chisel-jawed but extremely courteous. The kind of people who would kill you with their bare hands, but then apologise.

We shot some behind-the-scenes footage, then Hannah rushed back in.

‘OK, we need to de-clutter this room asap.’

We de-cluttered.

Shortly afterwards, the US ambassador Robert Wood ‘Woody’ Johnson boarded with his wife. Morgan said they were on their way to Turnberry with the Trumps for the weekend:

Suddenly, the plane’s intercom system announced it would be five minutes until the President arrived and energy levels on the plane instantly rocketed. People were streaming all over the place, making sure everything was perfectly prepared.

I looked again out of the window and saw a fleet of helicopters including Marine One sweeping down to land next to Air Force One.

Chief of Staff John Kelly appeared:

My brother, a British Army colonel, speaks very highly of him as a military leader, and he certainly exudes an impressive air of calm authority.

‘How long do you need with the President?’ he asked.

‘As long as I can squeeze the lemon,’ I replied.

We both laughed, knowing it would be entirely at the whim of President Trump how long the lemon would allow itself to be squeezed.

Then the president appeared. Mrs Trump stopped by briefly before leaving the two men to the interview. Of the Trumps, Morgan observed:

she and Donald still seem as relaxed and happy in each other’s company as they always seemed before he went into politics.

‘I hope this doesn’t sound too patronising,’ I told her, ‘but I have great admiration for the way you have conducted yourself as First Lady. A friend of mine (Sarah Brown) did this kind of job when her husband became British Prime Minister so I know how tough it can be.’

‘I just feel it’s important to be true to yourself,’ she smiled.

Then, it was down to business:

… after Melania left, he got into game mode.

‘OK, let’s go,’ he barked, ‘the plane’s waiting to take off!’

I’d been told we had a maximum of 15 minutes for the interview, due to the flight schedule

Our long time friendship is why I am the only British TV journalist he speaks to (this was my fourth interview with him since he ran for President, two as a candidate, two as POTUS.)

Please do read the rest of the article, which is essentially a transcript of the interview.

Trump answered questions about his meetings with Prime Minister Theresa May and a possible post-Brexit trade deal. The Daily Express carried the exchange:

The President said he was certain there was a good deal to be done between the two nations.

“I think we’re going to have a great trade deal,” he told Piers Morgan. “I’ve really no doubt about it.

“We’re going to get it.

“Now, if they do whatever they do, they had to, I said make sure you gave a carve out — you know I call it a carve out from this,” he continued. “You have to have a carve out — where no matter what happens, they have the right to make a deal with the United States.”

“And has Theresa May looked you in there eye and said, ‘We will get there’?” Morgan quizzed him.

“Well, she feels she’s going to be able to make a deal and yeah,” the President replied. “And again, I have to tell you, I really like her.”

Morgan asked Trump about his plans for 2020:

Also during their 30-minute conversation, Morgan quizzed the President about whether he will run again in 2020.

“I fully intend to,” Trump told him.

“You never know, err, what happens with health and other things, and we know, let’s face it —“ he continued, before Morgan interrupted: “Are you fit? You look fit.”

“I feel good,” the President replied, saying it “seems like everybody” wants him to run again.

Reuters had a bit more:

Trump said he did not see any Democrat who could beat him: “I don’t see anybody. I know them all and I don’t see anybody.”

Morgan asked Trump about the Queen. The president knows better than to divulge specifics of their conversation, but he had nothing but compliments for her:

On Monday, July 16, as Trump was about to meet with Russia’s president Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, Morgan discussed aspects of his interview with a CNN presenter. He quoted Trump expressing his desire to bring about world peace and concisely summarised the current Brexit situation.

The presenter’s wincing smile fades quickly to a stony look. The cameras cut away from her while Morgan was talking. No doubt steam was coming out of her ears. Disgraceful.

Good job, Piers, for staying the course:

Morgan clearly enjoyed the experience:

As I write, the interview can be seen on ITV Player for the next few weeks (account required, which is no big deal). N.B.: I am not sure if it is geo-localised.

After the interview, the Trumps were on their way to Scotland for some R&R. No one could have anticipated what happened there, and I’m not talking about protesters. More to come next week.

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On Friday, July 13, 2018, President Trump met with the UK’s two most powerful women.

In the morning, he met with Prime Minister Theresa May at the prime ministerial weekend residence, Chequers, regarding US-UK trade deals post-Brexit. Philip May, meanwhile, was with Melania Trump at Royal Hospital Chelsea.

Before arriving in Brussels for the NATO conference, Trump made frank remarks about the UK. On July 10, the Daily Mail reported (emphases mine):

Speaking to journalists as he set off for Europe, Mr Trump said there were a ‘lot of things’ going on in the UK at the moment and the country seemed to be ‘somewhat in turmoil’.

‘The UK certainly has a lot of things going on,’ he said.  

Boris Johnson’s a friend of mine. He’s been very, very nice to me. Very supportive.

‘And maybe we’ll speak to him when I get over there. 

I like Boris Johnson. I’ve always liked him.’ 

Asked by DailyMail.com whether Mrs May should continue as PM, Mr Trump said ‘that is up to the people’.

However, he added that he had a ‘very good relationship’ with Mrs May. 

Mr Trump joked that his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin might be the ‘easiest’ leg of his trip to Europe.

The Mail said that the Prime Minister was unruffled and looked forward to meeting with Trump:

Asked directly abut his incendiary comments, she said: ‘I am looking forward to seeing president Trump not only at the Nato summit in the next couple of days but also when he comes to the UK. 

‘There is much for us to discuss.’

She added: ‘We will be talking positively about how we can continue to work together in our special relationship for the good of people living in the UK and the United States and, actually, for the wider good‘ …

Downing Street insisted they were ‘relaxed’ about the intervention, pointing out that Mr Trump also stressed his ‘very good’ relations with Mrs May. A spokesman said the president was ‘being humorous’ with his remark about the Putin meeting.

The weekend before, Mrs May convened ministers at Chequers to put forward a ‘soft’ Brexit plan, released as a government white paper on the day of the dinner at Blenheim Palace, July 12. A number of MPs resigned their ministerial posts as a result. A leadership contest could well be in the offing. In addition to Boris Johnson, another front runner is the ‘hard’ Brexit MP Jacob Rees-Mogg, who took London’s LBC talk radio calls on July 10:

This seems off-topic until one considers that Trump said that the US might not be able to make trade deals with the UK in the case of a ‘soft’ (EU-tied) Brexit. Instead, the US might have to negotiate with the EU to trade with Britain.

Whilst the dinner May put on for the Trumps, the American entourage and British business leaders at Blehneim Palace on July 12 went very well, Trump had sounded a warning on future trade negotiations in a Sun interview that appeared that evening. BT.com reported:

Donald Trump has warned Theresa May her Brexit plan could “kill” any UK-US trade deal because Britain would remain so closely aligned to the European Union.

The US president said he would have done the Brexit negotiations “much differently” and claimed the Prime Minister did not listen to his advice, in an interview with The Sun.

His highly-controversial remarks came at the end of a day in which he had already waded deeply into the Brexit row over Theresa May’s white paper ahead of his first official visit to Britain as President.

He had used a Thursday morning press conference in Brussels to attack the Prime Minister’s Brexit plan and highlight Cabinet divisions.

In a Sun interview released while Mr Trump and First Lady Melania were being entertained by the Prime Minister at Blenheim Palace, the president said: “If they do a deal like that, we would be dealing with the European Union instead of dealing with the UK, so it will probably kill the deal”.

The comments, following on from the morning press conference, will a cause of great concern for Mrs May.

She had used the Blenheim black tie dinner with political and business leaders to press Mr Trump on the benefits of a free trade deal after Brexit …

Speaking to reporters in Belgium after a fiery Nato Summit, Mr Trump had described the UK as a “hot spot right now with a lot of resignations” and dismissed the Prime Minister’s Chequers plan on the next stage of Brexit.

That day, May’s 98-page white paper appeared, proffering an ‘Association Agreement’ with the EU. BT.com reported:

The 98-page document sets out a significantly “softer” version of Brexit than desired by more eurosceptic Tories, and prompted the resignation of Boris Johnson and David Davis from Mrs May’s Cabinet earlier this week.

Extracts of Mr Davis’s alternative White Paper, published on the ConservativeHome website, show that the former Brexit secretary was planning a “Canada plus plus plus” free trade deal based on mutual recognition of independent systems of regulation.

By contrast, Mrs May’s plan involves the UK accepting a “common rulebook” on trade in goods, with a treaty commitment to ongoing harmonisation with EU rules.

It envisages the UK entering an Association Agreement with the EU and making continued payments for participation in shared agencies and programmes.

And it states that an independent arbitration panel set up to resolve UK-EU disputes will be able to seek guidance from the European Court of Justice, but only on the interpretation of EU law.

The Eurosceptics are correct: that is not what 52% of voters had in mind when they voted to Leave on June 23, 2016. Trump was diplomatic:

Mr Trump said it seemed the Prime Minister’s plans meant the UK was “getting at least partially involved back with the European Union”.

Borrowing one of Mrs May’s old slogans, Mr Trump told a Brussels press conference: “I would say Brexit is Brexit. The people voted to break it up so I would imagine that’s what they would do, but maybe they’re taking a different route – I don’t know if that is what they voted for.”

That was part of the backdrop to Trump’s meeting with May.

However, there is also a historical aspect to America’s trade with Britain, explored below:

Over the past few years:

Meetings had taken place beforehand between Liam Fox and Woody Johnson:

Defence is highly important …

… as is international co-operation:

With the last two areas of shared interest in mind, it was not surprising that the Prime Minister hosted Trump at Sandhurst that morning before their meeting at Chequers:

After the bilateral meetings at Chequers concluded, May and Trump held a joint press conference (YouTube video here), excerpted below.

PRIME MINISTER MAY: … This morning, President Trump and I visited Sandhurst, where we saw a demonstration of joint working between British and American special forces. Just one example of what is today the broadest, deepest, and most advanced security cooperation of any two countries in the world …

That partnership is set to grow, with our armies integrating to a level unmatched anywhere, and the UK set to spend £24 billion on U.S. equipment and support over the next decade.

Today, we’ve also discussed how we can deepen our work together to respond to malign state activity, terrorism, and serious crime. In particular, on Russia, I thanked President Trump for his support in responding to the appalling use of a nerve agent in Salisbury, after which he expelled 60 Russian intelligence officers. And I welcomed his meeting with President Putin in Helsinki on Monday. We agreed that it is important to engage Russia from a position of strength and unity, and that we should continue to deter and counter all efforts to undermine our democracies.

Turning to our economic cooperation, with mutual investment between us already over $1 trillion, we want to go further. We agreed today that, as the UK leaves the European Union, we will pursue an ambitious U.S.-UK free trade agreement. The Chequers Agreement reached last week provides the platform for Donald and me to agree an ambitious deal that works for both countries right across our economies, a deal that builds on the UK’s independent trade policy, reducing tariffs; delivering a gold standard in financial services cooperation; and, as two of the world’s most advanced economies, seizing the opportunity of new technology …

And that is why I’m confident that this transatlantic alliance will continue to be the bedrock of our shared security and prosperity for years to come.

Mr. President.

PRESIDENT TRUMP: Thank you very much. Thank you. Prime Minister, thank you very much. And it is my true honor to join you at this remarkable setting — truly magnificent — as we celebrate the special relationship between our two countries. On behalf of the American people, I want to thank you for your very gracious hospitality. Thank you very much, Theresa …

Today, it’s a true privilege to visit historic Chequers that I’ve heard so much about and read so much about growing up in history class, and to continue our conversation, which has really proceeded along rapidly and well over the last few days …

Before our dinner last night, Melania and I joined Prime Minister May, Mr. May, and the Duke and Duchess of Marlborough for a tour of the Winston Churchill Exhibit at Blenheim Palace. It was something; it was something very special. It was from right here at Chequers that Prime Minister Churchill phoned President Roosevelt after Pearl Harbor. In that horrific war, American and British servicemembers bravely shed their blood alongside one another in defense of home and in defense of freedom. And together, we achieved a really special, magnificent victory. And it was total victory …

In our meetings today, the Prime Minister and I discussed a range of shared priorities, including stopping nuclear proliferation. I thanked Prime Minister May for her partnership in our pursuit of a nuclear-free North Korea. She’s been a tremendous help.

The Prime Minister and I also discussed Iran. We both agree that Iran must never possess a nuclear weapon and that I must halt, and we must do it — and I’m going to do it and she’s going to do it, and we’re all going to do it together. We have to stop terrorism. It’s a scourge. We have to stop terrorism. And we have to get certain countries — and they’ve come a long way, I believe — the funding of terrorism has to stop, and it has to stop now.

I encouraged the Prime Minister to sustain pressure on the regime. And she needed absolutely no encouragement, because she, in fact, also encourages me. And we’re doing that, and we’re doing that together — very closely coordinated.

The United Kingdom and the United States are also strengthening cooperation between our armed forces, who serve together on battlefields all around the world.

Today, the Prime Minister and I viewed several U.S.-UK Special Forces demonstration — we saw some demonstrations today, frankly, that were incredible. The talent of these young brave, strong people. We saw it at the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst. Seamless cooperation between our militaries is really just vital to addressing the many shared security threats. We have threats far different than we’ve ever had before. They’ve always been out there, but these are different and they’re severe. And we will handle them well.

We also recognize the vital importance of border security and immigration control. In order to prevent foreign acts of terrorism within our shores, we must prevent terrorists and their supporters from gaining admission in the first place …

I also want to thank Prime Minister May for pursuing fair and reciprocal trade with the United States. Once the Brexit process is concluded, and perhaps the U.K. has left the EU — I don’t know what they’re going to do, but whatever you do is okay with me. That’s your decision. Whatever you’re going to do is okay with us. Just make sure we can trade together; that’s all that matters. The United States looks forward to finalizing a great bilateral trade agreement with the United Kingdom. This is an incredible opportunity for our two countries, and we will seize it fully.

We support the decision of the British people to realize full self-government, and we will see how that goes. Very complicated negotiation and not an easy negotiation, that’s for sure. A strong and independent United Kingdom, like a strong and independent United States, is truly a blessing on the world.

Prime Minister May, I want to thank you again for the honor of visiting the United Kingdom — a special place. My mother was born here, so it means something maybe just a little bit extra; maybe even a lot extra. And we had a wonderful visit. Last night, I think I got to know the Prime Minister better than at any time. We spent a lot of time together over a year and a half. But last night, we really — I was very embarrassed for the rest of the table. We just talked about lots of different problems and solutions to those problems. And it was a great evening.

As we stand together this afternoon at Chequers, we continue a long tradition of friendship, collaboration, and affection between ourselves and also between our people. The enduring relationship between our nations has never been stronger than it is now.

So, Madam Prime Minister, thank you very much. It’s been an honor. Thank you. Thank you, Theresa.

BT.com reported that Trump apologised for the biting statements he had made to The Sun (article since updated to show photos of his UK visit) before he arrived. The article also has a photo of Mrs May smiling broadly:

Mr Trump said he apologised to Mrs May over the Sun front page story, and she replied: “Don’t worry it’s only the press.”

But he repeated his praise of Mr Johnson, saying: “Boris Johnson, I think, would be a great prime minister.”

Mrs May said it was “all of our responsibility to ensure that transatlantic unity endures”.

The PM said the United States is “keen” to do a deal with the UK.

“We will do a trade deal with them and with others around the rest of the world,” she added.

Then it was time for the US president to rejoin his wife and meet the Queen at Windsor Castle.

Elizabeth II has met every serving US president during her reign, except, it seems, for Lyndon Johnson. She has met Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, John Kennedy, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George HW Bush, Bill Clinton, George W Bush, Barack Obama — and, now, Donald Trump.

Visiting the Queen meant a lot to President Trump, because his mother, born in Scotland, was an avid fan of hers and watched her appearances when they were transmitted in the US.

He gave The Sun his longstanding impressions of her earlier in the week:

You can see how pleased he was here:

BT.com reported that the visit, which included tea, lasted longer than previously scheduled:

The president, whose visit to Windsor Castle lasted 57 minutes – 17 more than expected – kept his jacket unbuttoned.

The Queen greeted the Trumps:

The monarch and the president then inspected a Guard of Honour:

Then:

The video below gives a view of where the Queen and her guests stood in relation to the Guards:

Afterwards:

Here is a bit of history about the Coldstream and Grenadier Guards:

Then it was time for a tour — and tea:

The Queen provided a reception for those accompanying the president, which included his press secretary:

These two short videos nicely recap the Trumps’ first official visit to England:

Then it was off to Scotland for the weekend at the president’s Turnberry golf resort:

More about Trump’s weekend tomorrow.

President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump left NATO for England on the afternoon of Thursday, July 12, 2018.

Mrs Trump enjoyed her time in Brussels:

The day before the Trumps’ arrival in England, a distinguished former British ambassador to the United States had been brutally attacked at Victoria Station. One possible reason? He defended President Trump:

Prayers for Sir Christopher’s full and swift recovery. He must be in much pain. The Daily Mail reported (emphases mine):

Sir Christopher Meyer, 74, was at Victoria when he was set upon by two attackers, his wife said to The Times

The retired diplomat, who was on his way home, was left with a bleeding and swollen eye socket, a burst lip and a suspected broken nose

Sir Christopher’s wife, Baroness Meyer, said he does not remember the attack, but that police believe the pair may have wanted to rob him.

I’m absolutely shocked by the level of the brutality. They really beat him. It’s appalling — like something you would see in a war zone,’ she said.

‘He looks terrible.  

His left eye is like a golf ball and bleeding, the nose looks like it could be broken. At first I thought that the attack was politically motivated

He is opinionated, and sometimes people have different opinions, but the police told me they believe that it is more likely that they might have wanted to rob him’ …

Fortunately:

Baroness Meyer told The Times nothing was stolen and police ‘acted quickly’ and the first thing her husband remembers was them being by his side.

Sir Christopher served as ambassador to the US during the latter end of the Clinton years and the first two of Bush II’s tenure:

He spent six years in Washington, from 1997 to 2003, becoming the longest-serving holder of his office since 1945.

As ambassador, he welcomed around 35,000 guests to his home a year and was made Knight Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George.

After retiring, he became chairman of the Press Complaints Commission, the former newspaper regulatory body.

For President Trump, the UK is a yuge danger zone. The Conservative Treehouse explained:

The U.K. is considered the most dangerous nation in the world for a terror threat against the President. The scale of the security force assigned to protect President Trump and First Lady Melania Trump is three times larger than the traveling military deployed/needed during the 2017 Mid-east trip to Saudi Arabia.

The following video shows the arrival of Air Force One at Stansted Airport in the county of Essex, just outside of London. Ambassador Robert Wood ‘Woody’ Johnson and UK Trade Secretary Liam Fox met the couple, who took Marine One to the centre of the capital, where they stayed at the US ambassador’s residence, Winfield House, in Regents Park:

Winfield House was commissioned by and owned by Barbara Woolworth Hutton, heiress to the Woolworth fortune, in 1936. Her grandfather Frank’s middle name was Winfield, hence the name and the branded line of Woolworth’s products.

During the Second World War, the Royal Air Force used Winfield House as a 906 barrage balloon unit and as an officer’s club. Interestingly, Hutton was married to actor Cary Grant at the time. They divorced in 1945, after three years. He used to visit Winfield House from time to time.

After the war, Hutton sold the house to the US government for one dollar. Initially, the US Third Air Force used the building as an officer’s club. It became the official US ambassador’s residence in 1955 and remains so to this day:

That evening, America’s first couple were guests of Prime Minister Theresa May at Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire, home to the Dukes of Marlborough and Winston Churchill during his early life. The Spencer-Churchill family still live there and parts of the palace — e.g. the state apartments — are open to the public.

The Trumps left Winfield House to be airlifted to Blenheim Palace:

The Prime Minister and her husband, Philip May, greeted the Trumps upon arrival:

The purpose of the dinner was to introduce the president to British business leaders in the hopes of forging trade between the two countries post-Brexit.

With that in mind, the Americans from Trump’s cabinet and administration were also invited:

Beforehand, there was time for a photo op and a military ceremony with music:

Then, they went inside:

Sky News reported:

The US president and First Lady Melania Trump were given a red carpet reception at Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire, where the prime minister pressed her case for an ambitious new trade deal after Brexit.

Addressing Mr Trump in front of an audience of business leaders at Winston Churchill’s birthplace, Mrs May insisted that Brexit provides an opportunity for an “unprecedented” agreement to boost jobs and growth.

And in an apparent plea to the president to remember his allies when he meets Vladimir Putin on Monday, Mrs May noted that Britain and America work closely on security “whether through targeting Daesh terrorists or standing up to Russian aggression”.

The military bands played music prior to departure:

No doubt the evening ended all too soon for some:

I can appreciate Dan Scavino’s enthusiasm. Everyone who visits Blenheim Palace enjoys it.

Tomorrow’s post will look at what happened on Friday, July 13.

A Twitter user from Britain enquired what people’s impressions of President Trump were during his visit to the UK last week.

The poll was taken by:

Here are the poll results:

A superb comment thread follows. This poll did not go as planned:

I especially liked this comment from MAGA!!! Mattdaddy:

Nice one!

Oh, well, better luck next time!

Detailed posts on the NATO summit and President Trump’s visit to the UK will follow next week.

For now, Prime Minister Theresa May’s husband Philip May hosted First Lady Melania Trump on Friday, July 13, 2018, more about which below.

As the Trump baby balloon was being inflated before floating over Parliament Square, President Trump was on his way to Sandhurst with the US ambassador to Britain, Robert Wood ‘Woody’ Johnson.

BT.com reports:

He is expected to view a joint US-UK special forces military demonstration at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst …

The president flew into the British Army’s official training centre on Marine One, preceded by two accompanying helicopters.

Woody Johnson, the US ambassador to Britain, was onboard with Mr Trump.

Also attending Sandhurst are several of the president’s aides, including John Kelly, John Bolton and Stephen Miller.

The report left out the Prime Minister:

Meanwhile, Philip May met Mrs Trump at the historic Royal Hospital Chelsea. Suzanne Johnson, the ambassador’s wife, accompanied her. They were greeted by Lieutenant Colonel Nicky Mott, hospital CEO Gary Lashko and Chelsea pensioners John Riley, Alan Collins and Marjorie Cole:

Mrs Trump also met pupils from Saint George’s Church of England primary school, who were making Remembrance Day poppies:

When she arrived into the room, she said “good morning” and asked the children if they would like to show her how to make the poppies.

Mrs Trump had a go at making one, and told the children: “Thank you for helping me.”

She showed Mr May her effort and joked: “Very professional.”

After the poppy making, Mrs Trump listened to school children talk about values and service.

Mrs Trump sat in front of a poster which said “Be the best you can be”.

Mrs Trump recently launched a campaign for American schoolchildren called ‘Be Best’, a poster for which shows in the following tweet:

St George’s has a programme called ‘Be the Best You Can Be’:

Then it was time for bowls:

Meanwhile, Prime Minister May and President Trump were engaging in talks at the weekend home of British prime ministers, Chequers:

One can only imagine what is going through Trump’s mind. Probably something along the lines of, ‘This is a historic moment, because, next time I come here, Theresa May will no longer be Prime Minister’. Sadly, that is a very real possibility — through her own doing for a ‘soft’ Brexit.

By the time this post appears, President and Mrs Trump will have enjoyed tea with the Queen at Windsor Castle and will be in Scotland at Trump’s golf resort, Turnberry, for the weekend.

Mrs Trump tweeted her thanks for a lovely Friday morning:

In closing, for those who are interested, this BT.com article has more information on Mrs Trump’s attire.

On Tuesday, July 10, 2018, Britain’s Royal Air Force (RAF) celebrated 100 years of defending the United Kingdom.

The most important part of the day was the RAF’s receiving a new colour from the Queen at Buckingham Palace. The colour was consecrated at Westminster Abbey:

A Service of Thanksgiving, open to the public, was also held that morning at St Clement Danes in the Strand, the Central Church of the Royal Air Force. The church is unusual as it sits in the middle of the Strand.

Afterwards, the Presentation of the Colours was made at Buckingham Palace, where the RAF gathered in the forecourt. The centenary ceremony attracted a large number of spectators around the Palace and along the Mall, suitably decorated with Union flags and RAF flags:

The Presentation of Colours ended with a magnificent flypast of RAF planes from the Second World War to the present day. They flew in from various RAF bases around the country. It took months of work behind the scenes logistically to ensure that the planes — numbering 100 in total — arrived for the flypast on time and in position.

This is the Queen’s relationship to the RAF:

Below are a series of tweets of the ceremony:

Afterwards:

Another reception took place on Horse Guards parade:

It was yet another occasion to make one feel proud to be British!

Profound thanks go to the RAF for all they have done — and continue to do — in defence of the nation!

May God continue to guide and bless the RAF over the next 100 years!

Yesterday’s post was about the BBC’s MasterChef.

It could be argued that the 2018 amateur series was the best to date.

Today’s post has more about the winner and a few inside scoops on the show.

More on Kenny Tutt

The Sun has excellent photos of Kenny Tutt’s restaurant quality winning dishes.

When bank manager Tutt beat Dr Nawamin Pinpathomrat and pilot David Crichton in the final, he said:

This whole thing is for my dad. I know he’s looking down and been giving me support. It’s a special day.

The first quarter hour or so of the final programme presented a segment on each of the finalists’ personal lives. Kenny’s mother related that her husband and son died when Kenny was a young man. He was close to both, but she said that he and his father were ‘joined at the hip’.

Kenny is devoted to his mother, his wife and his two daughters.

Yet, to look at Kenny’s characteristically happy face — we dubbed him Mr Smiley — one would never think that he had had two traumatic deaths to make sense of:

I drew two lessons from this.

The first is that we never know what has happened to other people by looking at them. Although far from being as sunny as Kenny, years ago, someone once said to me, ‘Nothing bad has ever happened to you’. I was taken aback, thinking how utterly wrong that person was.

The second is that the resilience and positive attitude that Kenny displays are exemplary.

We also found out from his wife Lucy that he got up when it was still dark to practice his dishes and perfect his culinary techniques for the show.

The Radio Times reported:

Speaking about his plans after the competition, the chef said “he would love to get more young people cooking”, but that his “ultimate ambition would be to run a high-end gastro Pub”. Just save us a seat whenever you open, Kenny.

The Daily Mail told us:

He said: ‘I would love to get more young people cooking. I always love to get my girls involved in the kitchen, and my eldest Emily just loves to cook and taste the food. Cooking teaches so much, from science to maths, and allows children to be creative and proud.

‘I would also love to write about food and want to put together some great food events, be it supper clubs or private dining. The ultimate ambition would be to run a high-end gastro Pub/B&B.’

The dad-of-two lives happily in Worthing, West Sussex, with his wife Lucy as well as their two children three-year-old Emily and 10-year-old Grace.

The Mail explained how he became interested in cooking:

Kenny started his culinary craft at a young age as he always loved watching his mum cooking up a storm in the kitchen.

The bank manager developed an interest in food from different cultures thanks to his love of travelling across the globe.

The Sun told us what he said before the final:

He said: “My mum always said if you just put a bit of love into it, that generally will make the food taste better.

“I’m just going to give it my best shot, try and have a bit of fun and we’ll see what happens.”

He said his job with the bank was his first “proper” job – and he’s worked there for 15 years.

Kenny says he appeared on MasterChef because he wanted to try something different.

Of course, MasterChef finished filming long before it aired. As with similar televised contests, the winner has to keep the victory a secret until the whole series airs. Add on the six weeks it takes for the show to complete on television and that is a very long period of time.

Mirror TV managed to interview him afterwards:

Speaking to Mirror TV, dad Kenny said that he still “couldn’t quite believe” that he had won the competition and described it as “mind-blowing”.

“It’s an amazing achievement for me, my family and everyone. So yeah, I’m really happy,” he said.

Revealing that he managed to keep the result a secret from most of his family and friends, he admitted that he told his wife Lucy and mum the outcome.

“My wife thought I was joking!” he quipped.

Kenny, who is dad to Emily (3) and Grace (10 months) said that he couldn’t have done it without his wife’s support.

The Mirror asked about the trip to Peru during finals week:

One memorable moment saw a contestant attempt to recreate the Andes mountains out of corn, and another arrange piranha heads on a plate. But was it all work and no play?

“We went out and had a bite to eat, but generally there was a lot of us thinking about what we were going to do next,” he told us.

“But yeah, we managed to spend a few hours together here and there which was really time well spent.”

His MasterChef experience far exceeded his expectations. The contestants were decent people:

I thought it would be more like competition – dog-eat-dog with people trying to clamber over each other to win and the thing that made it really good was that there wasn’t any of that.

We were all the best of friends. And the time the bell rang for us to start cooking we were all in our own little worlds anyway.

Judges John Torode and Gregg Wallace:

were the same in real life as they were on screen: “A couple of great guys”.

One thing Kenny hadn’t bargained for was the camera and sound crews:

The thing you don’t see when you’re watching on TV is the things that go on around you when you’re filming like cameras and sound. I didn’t know about that – you don’t even think about it.

It is a bit weird but you quickly get used to it. Once I was used to it it was like they had always been there. They were all great actually – the production crew, camera guys – they all had a great sense of humour.

He also said there was:

a “great atmosphere” on set and said that “everyone was well looked after”.

As for his cheerfulness:

To be honest, that was just me – what you see is what you get and I do get a bit excited to be there. I was just a bit like an excited puppy and that comes across.

I mean, I am a pretty happy guy, I’ve got nothing to be upset about. So I think most people take that as a good thing, but you do get the odd person who is like, ‘God, why is he always smiling?’

Well, you know, I’m on a TV show and I’m doing alright, so I’m not not going to be happy about it.

And:

He also said that he hadn’t realised he was “quite so animated” from the facial expressions he pulled: “It is quite cringe when you watch it back”.

It was all good, Kenny.

He told the Mirror that he was looking forward to relaxing and enjoying the experience before launching into any culinary projects.

Judges’ tasting and food waste

Many MasterChef fans wonder if the judges have to taste the dishes cold. They are also interested in what happens to leftover or unused ingredients.

The Sun posted an article which explains everything. In 2012, Gregg Wallace revealed what happens to the unused food and the cooked food:

The raw food gets divided up by the youngsters in the crew — talented young people who’ve just begun their careers and aren’t necessarily earning very much.

The cooked food is devoured by the filming crew. A lot of them carry their own cutlery!

That said, contestants race the film crew to taste each other’s dishes:

Chetna Makan, from the 2014 series, told Digital Spy: “It’s not just the cameramen who swarm over the food, we (the other contestants) definitely do it too.

“We all run to the food made by whoever got the most compliments. Literally, everybody runs, nearly knocking each other over to have a taste.”

As for the judges’ tasting, the Sun cited former MasterChef: The Professionals semi-finalist Louisa Ellis, who told Birmingham Live:

The food stays there for a bit after you’ve finished so they can get good shots of it.

“So it can be cold by the time the judges get to it – especially if you’re last to be judged – but they take that into consideration.”

The judges are said to get round this by going round and tasting each contestant’s food straight from the pot, in scenes which are later edited out.

Narrator India Fisher

India Fisher breaks the mould with her sultry, intense narration of MasterChef. She narrates all of the various series except for the Celebrity editions.

The Sun profiled her on April 13:

The softly-spoken host gives a commentary on the dishes whipped up by the cooks – and always makes them sound as good as they look …

Others have admitted that they’d love India to narrate their lives and describe their cooking successes with equal vigour.

This can be problematic for viewers when she moves on to other projects, such as commercials:

Fans may have noticed that India’s voice is affiliated with a number of different brands.

She is the voice of Natwest and has presented a variety of different advertisement campaigns.

Amusingly, her voice has become so synonymous with the show, that fans find it hard to focus when she embarks on a new project.

She also does other voice work:

India is also a broadcasting star, providing voice work for Science Fiction audio dramas including Earthsearch Mindwarp and Doctor Who.

She has also appeared on BBC Radio 4 comedy series Elephants to Catch Eels and Dead Ringers.

As we never see her, the Sun has a photo of her at the top of the article. Mystery solved!

India has been with MasterChef since its relaunch in 2005. Yet, we know little about her. The Sun tells us:

The 43-year-old is an actress and presenter who was born in Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire.

She comes from a famous family, as her dad is former MP Mark Fisher.

India is also the step-sister of musician Crispin Hunt and actress Francesca Hunt.

The trophy

The MasterChef trophy and logo were updated in 2012 to reflect a 21st century look.

The Sun explains:

It is made of polished aluminium and mounted on a tiered aluminium base.

Makers of the award, Gaudio, say on their website: “The MasterChef trophy is instantly recognisable and is treasured by winners.”

The article also gives updated information on recent winners’ activities in the culinary world.

Another series of MasterChef ended on Friday, April 13, 2018.

MasterChef, in all its incarnations — amateur, professional and celebrity — has comprised most of my BBC viewing. The only other programme I watch is Inside the Factory, which is also food oriented. As everything else is either politicised or revisionist, I avoid the rest of the BBC like the plague.

The last time I wrote about the amateur series of MasterChef was in 2013, when Londoner Natalie Coleman won. I was going to write about Ping Coombes in 2014, but a serious family matter intervened.

I remember well the original MasterChef, which Loyd Grossman — originally from Marblehead, Massachusetts — hosted in the 1990s. Grossman also hosted the British edition of Through the Keyhole for many years.

MasterChef underwent a revamp in 2005. The new studio was large (the current one huge), and the challenges became more involved. Chef and restaurateur John Torode and former greengrocer Gregg Wallace became the new co-hosts. Since then, many the winners have gone on to greatness, opening their own gastro-pubs and restaurants. Thomasina Miers, the 2005 winner, is probably the most successful of all the MasterChef winners. She founded and owns the Wahaca chain of restaurants featuring food you won’t find outside of Mexico.

Every series has some sort of controversy. 2017’s was about the proper pronunciation of chorizo. That year also saw the debut of the market, full of ingredients for the contestants to use. A physician from Watford won: Dr Saliha Mahmood-Ahmed, who now divides her time between hospital work and a cookery career. The doctor had stiff competition in Giovanna Ryan and Steve Kielty:

Now on to the 2018 edition of MasterChef.

The standard of cookery gets higher and higher every year, beginning with the first episode. Successful contestants make and plate restaurant quality dishes. Competent home cooks end up eliminated early on.

This was also the first year that the amateurs went to a foreign country during Finals Week. They spent time in Lima, Peru, cooking for two of the country’s top chefs.

The near diplomatic incident

In Knockout Week, Gregg Wallace nearly caused a diplomatic incident when he criticised a Malaysian contestant’s chicken rendang because the skin wasn’t crispy. On April 4, the London Evening Standard reported:

Wallace sparked a wave of criticism, including from Malaysia’s prime minister, after telling Malaysian-born Zaleha Kadir Olpin her chicken rendang dish needed a crispier skin.

“The skin isn’t crispy. It can’t be eaten but all the sauce is on the skin I can’t eat,” Wallace said on the BBC show.

His sharp assessment of the dish, which saw Ms Olphin crash out of the show, sparked a rebuke from Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Razak, who tweeted a picture of the curry dish along with the caption: “Does anyone eat chicken rendang ‘crispy’? #MalaysianFood”.

Wallace appeared on ITV’s Good Morning Britain to explain:

I didn’t mean it should be fried, like a fried chicken. What I meant was, it wasn’t cooked. And it simply wasn’t cooked. It was white and flabby.

It did no good. A Facebook page went up in Malaysia with the title ‘Justice for Chicken Rendang’ and demands for apologies from judges Torode and Wallace:

One commenter, Jin Wee, wrote online: “As a Malaysian, if I could, I would personally go to the show and rendang their head. Uncultured swine, doesn’t know variety of cuisine and claims to be Masterchef?”

The British high commissioner also got involved:

Vicki Treadell, the British high commissioner to Malaysia who was born in the country, tweeted: “Rendang is an iconic Malaysian national dish … It is never crispy & should also not be confused with the fried chicken sometimes served with nasi lemak.”

Torode had the final say, with no apology:

I did a whole series on Malaysia. Malaysian food is fantastic. I absolutely love it. I said to her, it wasn’t cooked enough, that’s what I said.

The Radio Times has more on the incident, including tweets. The magazine gives Torode’s exact quote as he was judging the dish:

I think the chicken rendang on the side is a mistake. It hasn’t had enough time to cook down and become lovely and soft and fall apart. Instead the chicken itself is just tough and it’s not really flavoursome.

Chorizo pronunciation redux

Questions over the pronunciation of chorizo arose again with Portuguese-born Alex, who works in the fashion industry in London. On April 12, the Sun reported:

Alex claims she’s from Portugal but some viewers seemed doubtful due to how she pronounced Chorizo.

One tweeted: “Alex on MasterChef tells us she’s from Portugal but then she says ‘Choritso’…#suspicious.”

The Sun included the tweet:

Alex did not make the cut for the final, but as the fourth remaining contestant, did a great job throughout.

Finalists

The final three contestants this year were all men: bank manager Kenny Tutt, airline pilot David Crichton and another physician, Thai-born Dr Nawamin Pinpathomrat, who is currently studying for his PhD at Oxford.

The Radio Times has more on the finalists, including their style of cuisine.

The apple crumble moment

David Crichton made an outstanding crumble in Finals week:

David’s apple crumble mille-feuille – layers of puff pastry, filled with caramelised apple and cream custard, with a crumble topping and served with clotted cream ice-cream and a caramel sauce – almost reduced John Torode to tears. The judge called it “fabulous, fantastic and faultless”.

The Australian-born Torode speaks as he finds. This crumble brought out a side that viewers had not seen before. The Evening Standard carried the story, peppering the text with tweets.

Torode told David:

“Fabulous, fantastic and faultless,” he said as he came close to shedding a tear. “Like honestly, it makes me well up – that is sensational.

“That’s what this competition is about where you push yourself to the stage where you make your own puff pastry and take the risk.

“You make a crumble, you make an apple pie, an apple tart, an apple [mille-feuille] and you take it to dizzy heights where it stirs emotion. Restaurant quality absolutely and a credit to you David.”

Here are two of the tweets:

Kenny’s cauliflower

On April 12, the day before the final, Alex and the three men were tasked with reproducing intricate recipes served at Dinner by Heston Blumenthal.

Chef director Ashley Palmer-Watts devised his takes on these historic dishes with the help of food historians and the team at Hampton Court Palace. Each recipe is 15 pages long.

The four contestants had five hours each to re-create four of the dishes to Palmer-Watts’s exacting standards. Each contestant was assigned a different dish. One of his sous-chefs was on hand to supervise and offer advice.

SpouseMouse and I really wanted Kenny to win. We think his bank branch is going to close, and he desperately needs another line of work.

We were furious to find that Palmer-Watts’s sous-chef allowed Kenny to leave his cauliflower garnish in the oven. We weren’t alone. Digital Spy reported:

People were fuming that poor Kenny wasn’t reminded about his cauliflower – especially when fellow contestant Alex had been given a helpful hint earlier…

For whatever reason, the sous-chef muttered:

His cauliflower’s still in the oven, so I’m not gonna tell him…

Representative tweets in Digital Spy‘s article follow:

Not only ‘could have’ but jolly well ‘should have’.

After a nail-biting round with Ashley Palmer-Watts joining John and Gregg in the judging, it was a relief to discover that Kenny was going through to the final.

Torode welled up once again:

Alex narrowly missed out on a spot in the final, but said that she was delighted with how well she’d done.

Judge John Torode got rather emotional when the time came to announce the results – and viewers were very quick to notice:

Alex is standing next to Kenny, awaiting the verdict:

The final

In an online poll, most MasterChef viewers did not expect Kenny Tutt to win the final.

However, win he did and in true style. Metro reported:

The 36-year-old father of two is the 14th amateur cook to claim the prize – beating 55 other hopefuls from the current series to the title after seven weeks of culinary challenges.

He ultimately fought off competition from fellow finalists Nawamin Pinpathomrat and David Crichton to take the title.

And he did it by impressing Gregg Wallace and John Torode with a three-course meal which was described by the judges as ‘restaurant-style perfection’ and ‘make-my-heart-thump fantastic’.

Kenny wanted to present the judges with three courses that showed techniques he had learned at the restaurants where he and the contestants cooked during the series to reflect his MasterChef journey:

Kenny kicked things off with roast scallops, smoked cauliflower, shimeji mushroom and pancetta.

His main course was a Squab pigeon breast and bon-bon, heritage beetroot, baby turnip, spiced cherries, bread sauce and game jus, followed by a bitter chocolate, ale ice-cream, malt tuile and smoked caramel.

The judges were impressed, to say the least:

‘Today we watched Kenny coming of age,’ Gregg said of his win.

‘We have just witnessed Kenny having his best round on MasterChef and he saved it for the final. His starter was a stunningly beautiful dish, it was quality restaurant-style perfection and his main course was even better.’

John said:

I think Kenny’s journey has been extraordinary. He has come a long way. His food has got more and more refined and his main course was make-my-heart-thump fantastic!

Kenny said:

I have put my heart and soul into it and it’s been an absolute pleasure. It’s up there with the happiest days of my life!

More on Kenny and MasterChef tomorrow. This series was so memorable in so many ways.

Last week, SpouseMouse went to London and, on the way back, stopped by Leonidas for a box of chocolates and received a free 250g bag of their Easter eggs, given to customers who spend £20 or more.

These are so good, that it’s worth mentioning to my European readers. Even if you cannot get a free bag this year, make a note to buy a box for next Easter. In 2018, a 250g box cost £6.15 or €6.95, which, given the incredibly high quality of Leonidas chocolate and fillings, is remarkable value for money.

This page shows how many different Easter eggs they have (scroll to the bottom).

Hands down, Leonidas is the best luxury chocolate on the market — and the best value for money — in the world.

We have been fans of Leonidas for many years. Their chocolate is sublime and the fillings are uniquely unctuous. A box goes a long way, because the quality of the product is so satisfying.

I would recommend that those who enjoy chocolates from the major Belgian luxury chocolatier buy a box of Leonidas and taste for themselves. In store, the staff are accustomed to putting together customised boxes. They are also very courteous.

Leonidas is a great hostess present and all-occasion gift. Be sure to buy some for yourselves, too.

Yesterday’s post was about social media bots, one aspect of what I call Big Data.

Today’s is about another Big Data component: how data harvesting is used.

On March 17, 2018, The Guardian published the latest article in its Cambridge Analytica File series. ‘I made Steve Bannon’s psychological warfare tool’: meet the data war whistleblower’ is fascinating.

The Guardian is looking into Cambridge Analytica because the firm was hired for Brexit in the UK and Donald Trump’s campaign in the US. The paper is trying to make the firm look like a bad guy, even though the Left have more powerful social media and data tools to hand — not to mention censorship. That said, Britain’s Electoral Commission and a select committee of MPs are investigating Cambridge Analytica as is Robert Mueller in his stateside investigation of Russian collusion. This is because of alleged use of Facebook user data.

In the US:

Aged 24, while studying for a PhD in fashion trend forecasting, he came up with a plan to harvest the Facebook profiles of millions of people in the US, and to use their private and personal information to create sophisticated psychological and political profiles. And then target them with political ads designed to work on their particular psychological makeup.

In the UK:

Last month, Facebook’s UK director of policy, Simon Milner, told British MPs on a select committee inquiry into fake news, chaired by Conservative MP Damian Collins, that Cambridge Analytica did not have Facebook data. The official Hansard extract reads:

Christian Matheson (MP for Chester): “Have you ever passed any user information over to Cambridge Analytica or any of its associated companies?”

Simon Milner: “No.”

Matheson: “But they do hold a large chunk of Facebook’s user data, don’t they?”

Milner: “No. They may have lots of data, but it will not be Facebook user data. It may be data about people who are on Facebook that they have gathered themselves, but it is not data that we have provided.”

Personally, even if Big Data and social media didn’t exist, there would have been a Brexit vote and a Trump victory regardless.  Furthermore, to still loathe Steve Bannon now is pointless. He was fired from the White House in 2017. He left Breitbart in January 2018. He’s annoyed various people greatly, from President Trump to the Mercers (more about whom below). Rebekah Mercer bankrolls Breitbart.

What I found interesting about The Guardian‘s article was how social media data are gathered, analysed and used. The genius whose idea led to the founding of Cambridge Analytica is 28-year-old Christopher Wylie. He was 24 at the time. Now he has turned whistleblower, largely because of the results of the UK referendum and US election in 2016.

Before getting into Big Data, the Left also use the same analytical tactics. Wylie learned from Obama’s campaign team (emphases mine below):

Wylie grew up in British Columbia and as a teenager he was diagnosed with ADHD and dyslexia. He left school at 16 without a single qualification. Yet at 17, he was working in the office of the leader of the Canadian opposition; at 18, he went to learn all things data from Obama’s national director of targeting, which he then introduced to Canada for the Liberal party. At 19, he taught himself to code, and in 2010, age 20, he came to London to study law at the London School of Economics.

For me, the big issue here is how data from social media users are used to shape public thinking.

Cambridge Analytica is far from being the only firm to do this. The primary customers for such data analyses are likely to be national security agencies, the military and defence companies:

at Cambridge University’s Psychometrics Centre, two psychologists, Michal Kosinski and David Stillwell, were experimenting with a way of studying personality – by quantifying it.

Starting in 2007, Stillwell, while a student, had devised various apps for Facebook, one of which, a personality quiz called myPersonality, had gone viral. Users were scored on “big five” personality traits – Openness, Conscientiousness, Extroversion, Agreeableness and Neuroticism – and in exchange, 40% of them consented to give him access to their Facebook profiles. Suddenly, there was a way of measuring personality traits across the population and correlating scores against Facebook “likes” across millions of people.

The research was original, groundbreaking and had obvious possibilities. “They had a lot of approaches from the security services,” a member of the centre told me. “There was one called You Are What You Like and it was demonstrated to the intelligence services. And it showed these odd patterns; that, for example, people who liked ‘I hate Israel’ on Facebook also tended to like Nike shoes and KitKats.

“There are agencies that fund research on behalf of the intelligence services. And they were all over this research. That one was nicknamed Operation KitKat.”

The defence and military establishment were the first to see the potential of the research. Boeing, a major US defence contractor, funded Kosinski’s PhD and Darpa, the US government’s secretive Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, is cited in at least two academic papers supporting Kosinski’s work.

The article says that, in 2013, a paper on the subject was published. Christopher Wylie read it and offered to replicate the technique for Britain’s Liberal Democrats, who were starting to become a political non-entity. Wylie made a formal presentation for them with the pitch that such an analysis could bring them more new voters. However, the Lib Dems were not interested.

That said, there was a silver lining. One of the Lib Dems Wylie was in touch with introduced him to a company called SCL Group:

one of whose subsidiaries, SCL Elections, would go on to create Cambridge Analytica (an incorporated venture between SCL Elections and Robert Mercer, funded by the latter). For all intents and purposes, SCL/Cambridge Analytica are one and the same.

Alexander Nix, then CEO of SCL Elections, made Wylie an offer he couldn’t resist. “He said: ‘We’ll give you total freedom. Experiment. Come and test out all your crazy ideas.’”

Wylie was hired as research director for the SCL Group, which had defence and political contracts:

Its defence arm was a contractor to the UK’s Ministry of Defence and the US’s Department of Defense, among others. Its expertise was in “psychological operations” – or psyops – changing people’s minds not through persuasion but through “informational dominance”, a set of techniques that includes rumour, disinformation and fake news.

SCL Elections had used a similar suite of tools in more than 200 elections around the world, mostly in undeveloped democracies that Wylie would come to realise were unequipped to defend themselves.

Wylie holds a British Tier 1 Exceptional Talent visa. He worked from SCL’s headquarters in London’s Mayfair.

He first met Steve Bannon in 2013. Bannon, the then-editor-in-chief of Breitbart came to England to support Nigel Farage and his pursuit of a national referendum on whether to leave the European Union.

Bannon, Wylie says, found SCL in an interesting way:

When I ask how Bannon even found SCL, Wylie tells me what sounds like a tall tale, though it’s one he can back up with an email about how Mark Block, a veteran Republican strategist, happened to sit next to a cyberwarfare expert for the US air force on a plane. “And the cyberwarfare guy is like, ‘Oh, you should meet SCL. They do cyberwarfare for elections.’”

It was Bannon who took this idea to the Mercers: Robert Mercer – the co-CEO of the hedge fund Renaissance Technologies, who used his billions to pursue a rightwing agenda, donating to Republican causes and supporting Republican candidates – and his daughter Rebekah.

Wylie and his boss Alexander Nix flew to New York to meet the Mercers. Robert Mercer had no problem understanding the SCL concept, as he had worked in AI (artificial intelligence) himself. He had also helped to invent algorhithmic trading. The pitch Wylie made to him was based on:

an influential and groundbreaking 2014 paper researched at Cambridge’s Psychometrics Centre, called: “Computer-based personality judgments are more accurate than those made by humans”.

Wylie had to prove to Mercer that such a statement was true. Therefore, he needed data. This is where another company, Global Science Research (GSR), entered the frame:

How Cambridge Analytica acquired the data has been the subject of internal reviews at Cambridge University, of many news articles and much speculation and rumour …

Alexander Nix appeared before Damian Collins, an MP, in February 2018. He downplayed GSR’s work for Cambridge Analytica in 2014:

Nix: “We had a relationship with GSR. They did some research for us back in 2014. That research proved to be fruitless and so the answer is no.”

Collins: “They have not supplied you with data or information?”

Nix: “No.”

Collins: “Your datasets are not based on information you have received from them?”

Nix: “No.”

Collins: “At all?”

Nix: “At all.”

Yet, The Guardian states:

Wylie has a copy of an executed contract, dated 4 June 2014, which confirms that SCL, the parent company of Cambridge Analytica, entered into a commercial arrangement with a company called Global Science Research (GSR), owned by Cambridge-based academic Aleksandr Kogan, specifically premised on the harvesting and processing of Facebook data, so that it could be matched to personality traits and voter rolls.

He has receipts showing that Cambridge Analytica spent $7m to amass this data, about $1m of it with GSR. He has the bank records and wire transfers. Emails reveal Wylie first negotiated with Michal Kosinski, one of the co-authors of the original myPersonality research paper, to use the myPersonality database. But when negotiations broke down, another psychologist, Aleksandr Kogan, offered a solution that many of his colleagues considered unethical. He offered to replicate Kosinski and Stilwell’s research and cut them out of the deal. For Wylie it seemed a perfect solution. “Kosinski was asking for $500,000 for the IP but Kogan said he could replicate it and just harvest his own set of data.” (Kosinski says the fee was to fund further research.)

Kogan then set up GSR to do the work, and proposed to Wylie they use the data to set up an interdisciplinary institute working across the social sciences. “What happened to that idea,” I ask Wylie. “It never happened. I don’t know why. That’s one of the things that upsets me the most.”

Meanwhile, I’m breathing a sigh of relief. That’s scary.

This is how the project worked — simply incredible and rather alarming:

Kogan was able to throw money at the hard problem of acquiring personal data: he advertised for people who were willing to be paid to take a personality quiz on Amazon’s Mechanical Turk and Qualtrics. At the end of which Kogan’s app, called thisismydigitallife, gave him permission to access their Facebook profiles. And not just theirs, but their friends’ too. On average, each “seeder” – the people who had taken the personality test, around 320,000 in total – unwittingly gave access to at least 160 other people’s profiles, none of whom would have known or had reason to suspect.

What the email correspondence between Cambridge Analytica employees and Kogan shows is that Kogan had collected millions of profiles in a matter of weeks. But neither Wylie nor anyone else at Cambridge Analytica had checked that it was legal. It certainly wasn’t authorised. Kogan did have permission to pull Facebook data, but for academic purposes only. What’s more, under British data protection laws, it’s illegal for personal data to be sold to a third party without consent.

Wylie told The Guardian that Facebook knew this was going on by looking at their security protocols. The article says Kogan reassured Facebook by saying the data were for academic use.

In any event, Cambridge Analytica had its data:

This was the foundation of everything it did next – how it extracted psychological insights from the “seeders” and then built an algorithm to profile millions more.

For more than a year, the reporting around what Cambridge Analytica did or didn’t do for Trump has revolved around the question of “psychographics”, but Wylie points out: “Everything was built on the back of that data. The models, the algorithm. Everything. Why wouldn’t you use it in your biggest campaign ever?”

Wylie left Cambridge Analytica in 2014. He was not involved in the company’s work on Brexit or for the Trump campaign.

Facebook didn’t really think about the data mining until 2016, when Cambridge Analytica were working for Ted Cruz during the GOP primary season. The Guardian‘s Harry Davies wrote an article in December 2015 about the use of Facebook data in his campaign:

But it wasn’t until many months later that Facebook took action. And then, all they did was write a letter. In August 2016, shortly before the US election, and two years after the breach took place, Facebook’s lawyers wrote to Wylie, who left Cambridge Analytica in 2014, and told him the data had been illicitly obtained and that “GSR was not authorised to share or sell it”. They said it must be deleted immediately.

“I already had. But literally all I had to do was tick a box and sign it and send it back, and that was it,” says Wylie. “Facebook made zero effort to get the data back.”

There were multiple copies of it. It had been emailed in unencrypted files.

Cambridge Analytica rejected all allegations the Observer put to them.

Facebook commented on the data:

Facebook denies that the data transfer was a breach. In addition, a spokesperson said: “Protecting people’s information is at the heart of everything we do, and we require the same from people who operate apps on Facebook. If these reports are true, it’s a serious abuse of our rules. Both Aleksandr Kogan as well as the SCL Group and Cambridge Analytica certified to us that they destroyed the data in question.”

The aforementioned Dr Kogan is still employed by Cambridge University as a senior research associate, but he also has a position in Russia:

what his fellow academics didn’t know until Kogan revealed it in emails to the Observer (although Cambridge University says that Kogan told the head of the psychology department), is that he is also an associate professor at St Petersburg University. Further research revealed that he’s received grants from the Russian government to research “Stress, health and psychological wellbeing in social networks”. The opportunity came about on a trip to the city to visit friends and family, he said.

Social media data have turned into a powerful tool to be exploited. I have had several conversations over the past few years with Facebook users, none of whom minds who has access to their personal details: family members, friends, likes, dislikes and interests. To know that this information has been mined under the aegis of academic research then used for other purposes boggles the mind.

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