- By Robbie GramerRobbie Gramer is a staff writer at Foreign Policy. He writes for The Cable, FP’s real-time take on all things, well, foreign policy. Before he joined FP in 2016, he used to think in a tank, managing the NATO portfolio at the Atlantic Council for three years. He’s a graduate of American University’s School of International Service, where he studied international relations and European affairs. He has lived in both Washington and Brussels, though he grew up in Idaho and Oregon, so he’s a West Coaster at heart. When he’s not busy reporting, he’s probably busy starting three new books before he has finished the last one or planning a trip to a national park he hasn’t visited yet., Emily TamkinEmily Tamkin is a staff writer at Foreign Policy. She writes for FP’s The Cable, a real-time take on the news in Washington and the wider world. She has been at FP since the fall of 2016, before which she was an associate editor at New America, a nonpartisan think tank in Washington. She has a B.A. in Russian literature from Columbia University, an M.Phil. in Russian and East European studies from the University of Oxford, and studied Soviet dissidence in archival centers in Moscow, Tbilisi, and, on a Fulbright, in Bremen — all of which means that at FP, she writes when she can on Russia and Central and Eastern Europe.
On Thursday, the nationalist and anti-immigrant French politician Marine Le Pen, leader of France’s National Front, decided to grab a coffee with some friends while she was in New York. She decided to grab that coffee in Trump Tower, a place you may have heard of because it belongs to former reality television star and beauty pageant organizer Donald Trump. (Also, he is the next president of the United States).
With whom did she meet at Trump Tower? According to photos, with Guido Lombardi.
You might remember Lombardi from this Politico profile in which he is described as Trump’s “European fixer” (and also his neighbor). He is also a member of Italy’s anti-immigrant Northern League, led by Matteo Salvini, with whom Trump has met. Salvini, like Trump and Le Pen, is openly admiring of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Le Pen, part of a motley crew of far-right politicians in Europe enjoying a groundswell of populist support, is the leading candidate in the French presidential race, according to polls released Wednesday (disclaimer: it is 2017 and polls are meaningless). Her National Front has had difficulty scraping together the 20 million euros necessary for presidential and legislative elections. French banks reportedly won’t loan to the party because their platform is anti-Semitic. A 9 million euro loan from the Moscow-based First-Czech Russian Bank disappeared like a fine wine at a dinner party after the bank lost its license. Le Pen is reportedly considering returning to Russia to ask for more of le cash.
It’s unclear whether Le Pen and her posse met with anyone on Trump’s transition team — or if it’s just a PR stunt. The Trump team was not immediately available for comment on the purpose of le Pen’s trip to the tower. If it is indeed a publicity move, she wouldn’t be the first far-right European politician to use a Trump Tower visit for prominence. In December, Austria’s far right Freedom Party put out a statement (while on a trip to Moscow to meet with Putin’s political surrogates) claiming its leaders met with Trump’s national security adviser pick, Michael Flynn, the month before. Trump’s press spokesperson vehemently denied the meeting ever took place.
Trump’s best British friend (and occasional Trump Tower visiter), the boisterous Brexiteer Nigel Farage, backed Le Pen’s presidential bid in November. He will be attending Trump’s lavish inauguration balls. No word on whether Le Pen received an invite. But maybe that’s what she went to Trump Tower to do.
Even if not, there’s certainly no shortage of material Le Pen could discuss with Trump. In recent months, she’s said Crimea belongs to Russia (a position Trump was apparently advised to take by Henry Kissinger) and that children of illegal immigrants are no longer entitled to a free education, regardless of what the French constitution says, because “playtime is over.”
And, yes, many in France and the United States feel it is.
Photo credit: JEAN-FRANCOIS MONIER/AFP/Getty Images