Trump says woman wanted over UK crash death ‘will be spoken to’
President’s briefing notes reveal wife of US diplomat flown out of UK will not return for questioning over death of teenage motorcyclist
Family spokesman Radd Seiger speaks on behalf of father of crash victim Harry Dunn, Tim Dunn (R), and mother Charlotte Charles (L) after meeting with Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab. Photograph: Peter Summers/Getty Images
The wife of a US diplomat suspected of involvement in the death of a British teenage motorcyclist will not be returned to the United Kingdom for trial, according to briefing notes provided to Donald Trump.
Anne Sacoolas, the wife of a CIA operative, left the UK days after the crash, with the US State Department claiming she was covered by diplomatic immunity.
Briefing notes for a press conference on Wednesday, pictured by a Washington Post photographer, tell the president to say: “(If raised) note, as Secretary Pompeo told [foreign secretary] Raab, that the spouse of the US Government employee will not return to the United Kingdom.”
Harry Dunn (19) died on August 27th when his motorcycle collided with a car being driven by the US diplomat’s wife, who was then flown out of the UK, in a case that has driven a wedge between Washington and London.
Another of Mr Trump’s talking points said it would be up to the woman involved whether to talk to British investigators.
“(If raised) Note the spouse of the US government employee will have to consider, based on the advice of her legal counsel, whether to make herself available for questioning by British authorities,” the note said.
However, when asked about the case at the press event, Mr Trump did not read from the notes, but improvised without giving a straight answer.
“It is a very complex issue as you know,” the president said, in a rambling reply. “So a young man was killed. The person that was driving the automobile, has diplomatic immunity. We’re going to speak to her very shortly and see if we can do something. It was an accident ? We’re going to speak to her and see what we can come up with so there can be some healing.”
The president’s comments to reporters on Wednesday night followed a call from Boris Johnson in which the prime minister asked him to waive immunity for the woman and as the teenager’s family announced they will start a civil action to try to force her back to the UK for questioning. UK officials are privately pessimistic about the US relenting.
The family spoke after a 45-minute meeting with the foreign secretary, Dominic Raab, they said left them frustrated and feeling like it had “just been a publicity stunt”.
On Wednesday night a Downing Street spokesman said Mr Johnson had discussed the case in a call to the US president. “The prime minister urged the president to reconsider the US position so the individual involved can return to the UK, cooperate with police and allow Harry’s family to receive justice.”
His parents have been urging the UK government either to challenge that claim or to put more pressure on the US to waive immunity.
This would allow her to return to the UK to face questioning by Northamptonshire police over the incident. A Volvo car allegedly driven by Sacoolas struck Mr Dunn after leaving RAF Croughton.
The Downing Street spokesman said Mr Trump was aware of the case and expressed his condolences to Mr Dunn’s parents in his call with Johnson. “The leaders agreed to work together to find a way forward as soon as possible,” he said.
Later, in his comments to reporters, Mr Trump said it sometimes “happens” that Americans drive on the wrong side of the road in the UK. “It was an accident. It was a terrible accident,” he said. It is unclear at this stage what caused the collision.
Mr Raab met Mr Dunn’s mother, Charlotte Charles, and his father, Tim Dunn, on Wednesday afternoon after having talks with the US ambassador, Woody Johnson, on Tuesday.
Charles told reporters afterwards: “I can’t really see the point as to why we were invited to see Dominic Raab. We are no further forward than where we were this time last week. Part of me is feeling like it was just a publicity stunt on the UK government side to show they are trying to help. But, although he is engaging with us, we have no answers. We are really frustrated that we could spend half an hour or more with him and just come out with nothing.”
Mr Raab insisted he shared “the frustration of Harry’s mother and father”. The foreign secretary added: “They have lost their son and the justice process is not being allowed to properly run its course.
“We are continuing to press the US authorities for their cooperation to ensure the police can pursue this case unimpeded and to allow Harry’s family to get justice.”
The Foreign Office said it was in no doubt that Ms Sacoolas’s family was covered by diplomatic immunity under the Vienna convention, and that it could not challenge that fact. – Guardian