BALMEDIE, Scotland â Donald Trump capped off his two-day overseas tour in a golf cart Saturday afternoon, zooming around the golf course he built on top of sand dunes. Running the country wonât be much different than building a resort like this, he told the pack of political reporters who followed in maintenance carts â âjust a lot bigger.â
Amid the chaos of the day, Trump seemed to dramatically shift on two of his major policy proposals, although it was unclear if he meant to do so and his staff provided no clarification.
Some of Trumpâs comments led his spokeswoman to confirm via email that Trumpâs ban on U.S. entry by foreign Muslims would only apply to those from countries rife with terrorism, instead of all Muslims. Later, over fish and chips at the clubhouse, Trump told a Bloomberg Politics reporter that he doesnât consider âmass deportationsâ a part of his immigration plan, although he didnât specify what that meant.
Trumpâs goal for the trip was to promote two of his golf courses, not wade into foreign-policy discussions. But as Trumpâs plane crossed the Atlantic, the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union â and the swarm of political reporters who traveled there with him wanted to know how he would address the situation.
When Trump arrived at his newly opened resort in Turnberry on Scotlandâs western coast on Friday morning, it seemed like an image reboot was in the works. After weeks of struggling to implement a general-election strategy, he fired his campaign manager on Monday, gave a carefully scripted speech attacking Hillary Clinton on Wednesday and suddenly adopted a more polished voice on Twitter.
There was great anticipation as Trump stepped up to the microphone at a press conference on the ninth hole of the course, close to a cliff. Before he could say anything, a man wearing a Turnberry sweater jumped up to apologize for having forgotten to hand out golf balls to the crowdâ then tossed dozens of red golf balls featuring a black swastika in Trumpâs direction. Secret Service agents surrounded the man, British comic Simon Brodkin, and escorted him away.
Trump then spoke to the world, standing in a sea of Nazi golf balls.
âThis is an amazing honor; itâs an amazing day â very historic day for a lot of reasons, not only Turnberry,â Trump said in a monotone voice, with a white campaign hat pulled down low, just above his eyes. âThis is one of the big votes in the history of Europe and Scotland and everywhere .â.â. I think that it is purely historic, and what is happening is historic.â
He didnât dwell on that history. Instead, Trump told the crowd that his mother was born in Scotland and adored the queen. He promoted his hotel suites, alluded to zoning changes and let everyone know that the golf courseâs new sprinkler system is of âthe highest level.â Trump recognized the previous owners of the resort, âfriends of mine from Dubaiâ who he said âdidnât understand this golf thing.â He also marveled at his son Eric Trumpâs ability to oversee the project.
He may have been jetlagged or unnerved by the swastika-covered golf balls at his feet, but Trump appeared to lack his usual energy that morning. He leaned heavily on the lectern, rarely seeming excited about the words coming out of his mouth. At one point, he accidentally mixed up âScotlandâ and âFlorida,â the critical swing state where he owns a number of golf courses and where Clinton just passed him in a poll.
He couldnât avoid the dayâs headlines, as reporters pressed him to weigh in on the dayâs developments beyond Turnberry.
âPeople want to take their country back,â Trump said of the Brexit vote. âThey want to take their borders back. They want to take their monetary [sic] back. They want to take a lot of things back. They want to be able to have a country again. So, I think youâre going have this happen more and more. I really believe that, and I think itâs happening in the United States.â
Trump said that as president he would âembraceâ Britain leaving the E.U., but also âsee how it plays out.â He mused that the falling value of the pound âcould very well turn out to be a positive,â benefitting the travel industry and his resort. He wouldnât take a position on Scotlandâs renewed quest for independence â as its voters sharply disagreed with England and Wales, voting to stay in the E.U. â and he criticized President Obama for taking a stance on the referendum, breaking the informal tradition of not taking aim at a sitting president from overseas. He also mentioned his foreign-policy advisers.
âIâve been in touch with them,â he said, âbut thereâs nothing to talk about.â
At one point, Ewen MacAskill of the Guardian listed prominent British leaders who refused to meet with Trump because he is âregarded as toxic.â Trump called the reporter a ânasty, nasty guy.â
The next day Trump flew to Scotlandâs opposite coast, to the golf course he built on sand dunes north of Aberdeen, then had dinner with media giant Rupert Murdoch. At the gate of the Trump International Golf Links, security turned away journalists from The Washington Post, which has been banned from all of Trumpâs events for nearly two weeks, BuzzFeed and Politico, along with MacAskill.
Those who were allowed inside followed Trump on a tour of the course, stopping at holes 10, 13, 14 and 18 for questions.
Speaking on the green, Trump was asked if a Scottish Muslim would be welcome in the United States under his restrictive entry policy. For the first time, he said that his proposed ban on Muslim entry only applied to those from âterror states.â His spokeswoman confirmed in an email that Trumpâs proposed ban on Muslims entering the country would apply just to those coming from countries with heavy terrorism, although she didnât provide any additional clarification on precisely which countries. In an interview with Bloomberg Politics after he left the course, Trump criticized Obama for deporting âvast numbers of peopleâ and seemed to retreat somewhat from his own plan to deport 11 million illegal immigrants.
âI would not call it mass deportations,â Trump said of his immigration plan.
A spokeswoman did not respond to a request for clarification.
The Brexit vote came up again. âThereâs always turmoilâ in the markets, said Trump, who added that Americans have nothing to worry about.
âThis shouldnât even affect them,â Trump said. âI mean, frankly, if itâs done properly. If we had proper leadership.â
When asked about George W. Bush treasury secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr., a Republican, endorsing Clinton, Trump responded: âDonât know anything about him.â
Three of the Trump golf courseâs five immediate neighbors in Aberdeen were flying Mexican flags on Saturday in protest of his visit and his controversial comments about immigrants. For years, Trump and his associates have tried unsuccessfully to buy these properties or force the residents out.
âMost neighbors love us â I have one or two that are a little contentious, which is fine because they lost,â Trump said. âItâs like some of the people I beat in the primaries â theyâre not exactly in love with me. Well, I have one or two neighbors that we beat, and theyâre not exactly in love with me.â
He again brushed away questions about foreign-policy advisers, saying that âmost of them are no good.â
He then abruptly changed the topic back to golf.
âLetâs go to the 14th,â he said.