WASHINGTON — President Trump says he thought the grieving parents of a British teenager who was killed in a car crash involving an American diplomat’s wife wanted to meet with the woman during a White House visit. But Harry Dunn’s parents say they were stunned by the surprise proposition.
Charlotte Charles and Tim Dunn traveled to Washington seeking to have the woman’s diplomatic immunity lifted. Instead, Trump and national security adviser Robert O'Brien surprised the family by suggesting they meet with the woman in front of the White House press corps, said one of the couple’s lawyers.
Attorney Mark Stephens told The Associated Press that the couple had no idea the diplomat’s wife, Anne Sacoolas, would be in the building when they were there Tuesday. He said the couple wants to meet with Sacoolas at some point, but not in a surprise meeting staged for reporters.
Trump said Wednesday that he met with the family in the Oval Office and described them as ‘‘desperately sad.’’
‘‘It was very sad, to be honest,’’ he said. ‘‘They lost their son.’’ Trump said Sacoolas told him that she was accidentally driving on the wrong side of the road — something Trump said ‘‘happens in Europe’’ because drivers in England drive on the left side of the road instead of the right.
Trump said that Sacoolas had been waiting in a room just off the Oval Office when he made the offer to Dunn’s family.
‘‘They weren’t ready for it,’’ Trump said. ‘‘But I did offer. I spoke with Boris. He asked me if I'd do that. And I did it,’’ Trump said, referring to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. ‘‘Unfortunately, they wanted to meet with her, and unfortunately when we had everybody together, they decided not to meet. Perhaps they had lawyers involved by that time, I don’t know exactly.’’
He said he also expressed condolences on behalf of our country.
Harry Dunn, 19, was killed in August when his motorcycle collided with a car allegedly driven by Sacoolas outside a British air force base in southern England used by the U.S. military.
Sacoolas left Britain shortly after, though police released a statement saying she had previously told them she had no plans to depart.
Dunn’s parents have been pressing for Sacoolas to return to Britain and held a news conference in New York on Monday tearfully urging her to ‘‘do the right thing’’ and to ‘‘face us as a broken family,’’ along with the U.K. legal system.
A statement previously released on Sacoolas’ behalf said she intended to continue to cooperate with authorities.
‘‘Anne is devastated by this tragic accident. No loss compares to the death of a child, and Anne extends her deepest sympathy to Harry Dunn’s family,’’ it read.