Speaking alongside her at Chequers, the president said: “I didn’t criticise the prime minister, I have a lot of respect for the prime minister.”
Ms May herself ducked a question about the president’s savaging of her Brexit strategy, while insisting: “This does deliver on the vote of the British people.”
However, to her discomfort, Mr Trump confirmed he had given her a “suggestion” on how to pursue Brexit – while rejecting the word “advice” – saying: “I think she found it too brutal.”
In a comment certain to be leapt on by Brexiteer MPs, he added: “I can fully understand why she thought it was a little bit tough – even suggesting she might yet adopt it, if her own plan failed.
Frustratingly, Mr Trump refused to reveal his “suggestion”, but denied it was to collapse the talks if necessary, saying: “You can’t walk away because, if she walks away, that means she’s stuck.”