British parents of teen killed by U.S. official's wife stunned by White House request
Trump suggests it was Boris Johnson's idea to have family meet with driver
Donald Trump's national security adviser heaped pain and grief on the parents of a British teenager killed in a car crash by trying to hold a meeting at the White House between them and a U.S. diplomat's wife who was involved, the parents' lawyer said.
Charlotte Charles and Tim Dunn were invited to a surprise meeting with the U.S. president at his office on Wednesday where they were further shocked to learn that Anne Sacoolas, the American woman involved in the fatal crash, was in the building.
Mark Stephens, the lawyer for Charles and Dunn, said national security adviser Robert O'Brien had the idea of overseeing a coming together of the families before they would then hug in front of an assembled media.
"[O'Brien has] heaped grief and pain on the family by making them go through this but not allowing them to get the closure they need by talking to Mrs Sacoolas before they can go onto the grieving stage," Stephens told BBC radio on Wednesday.
Stephens called the attempt a "gargantuan miscalculation" in a separate interview with Sky News.
That happens in Europe, you go to Europe and the roads are opposite, and it's very tough if you're from the United States … that happens to a lot of people, by the way.- Donald Trump
Harry Dunn, 19, died after a car driven by Sacoolas collided with his motorbike near RAF Croughton, an air force base in Northamptonshire in central England used by the U.S. military.
His parents want Sacoolas, who left Britain under a disputed claim of diplomatic immunity, to return to England to speak to the police.
The case has received attention at the highest levels of both the U.S. and British governments.
"I hope that Anne Sacoolas will come back and will engage properly with the processes of law as they are carried out in this country," said British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Oct. 7.
Trump on Thursday claimed it was Johnson who asked about arranging a meeting between Dunn's family and Sacoolas but "they weren't ready for it."
Trump described the meeting with Dunn's parents as "beautiful, in a certain way" but also "very sad."
He did not address possible next steps to resolve Britain's grievance regarding Sacoolas fleeing the country, but seemed to characterize the fatality as an accident.
"That happens in Europe, you go to Europe and the roads are opposite, and it's very tough if you're from the United States … that happens to a lot of people, by the way," said Trump.
Through her lawyers, Sacoolas has said she is "devastated" and is willing to meet Dunn's family.
The exact role in the U.S. government of her husband, Jonathan Sacoolas, is unclear. In response to British media reports that alleged he was a National Security Agency spy, the NSA put out a statement denying he was employed by the agency.
Trump empathetic, family says
Dunn's parents said Trump had been gracious and responsive at their meeting, but the planned encounter with Sacoolas had come as a bombshell.
"He said he was sorry about Harry, and then he sprung the surprise that Mrs Sacoolas was in another room in the building and whether we want to meet her there and then," Tim Dunn said.
"We said no, because as we've been saying from the start, we want to meet Mrs Sacoolas but we want to do it in the U.K. so the police can interview her. We didn't want to be sort of railroaded, not into a circus as such, but a meeting we weren't prepared for."
While Trump and O'Brien had ruled out Sacoolas returning to Britain, Charles said Trump had taken her hand and promised to try to look at the issue from another angle.
Stephens said that offer had left open the opportunity for a political solution.
"We have said for a long time the family needs to meet, they need to meet in private, away from the media and not curated by politicians, spies or indeed lawyers," he said.
Charles said were a meeting with Sacoolas ever to take place, it would be best for all concerned for a therapist and mediator to be present, which would have not been the case at the White House.
With files from CBC News