The Cable

Trump Breaks Bread with France’s Macron, Defends Son’s Meeting for Russian Dirt

But the president left the door open on reviewing the Paris climate accord.

US President Donald Trump (L) and French President Emmanuel Macron (R) shake hand at the end of a press conference following meetings at the Elysee Palace in Paris, on July 13, 2017, during the US president's 24-hour trip that coincides with France's national day and the 100th anniversary of US involvement in World War I.
Donald Trump arrived in Paris for a presidential visit filled with Bastille Day pomp and which the White House hopes will offer respite from rolling scandal backing home.
 / AFP PHOTO / ALAIN JOCARD        (Photo credit should read ALAIN JOCARD/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump (L) and French President Emmanuel Macron (R) shake hand at the end of a press conference following meetings at the Elysee Palace in Paris, on July 13, 2017, during the US president's 24-hour trip that coincides with France's national day and the 100th anniversary of US involvement in World War I. Donald Trump arrived in Paris for a presidential visit filled with Bastille Day pomp and which the White House hopes will offer respite from rolling scandal backing home. / AFP PHOTO / ALAIN JOCARD (Photo credit should read ALAIN JOCARD/AFP/Getty Images)

French President Emmanuel Macron and President Donald Trump didn’t get off the to the best of starts when they first met in May. But they sought to present an image of “unbreakable” friendship during a meeting in Paris Thursday to celebrate Bastille Day.

At first glance, the two newly-minted political leaders are comfortably perched at nearly opposite poles of the current political spectrum. Macron is a young technocrat who ran on a platform promoting multiculturalism and greater cooperation with the European Union. Trump rode into office promoting nationalist policies like reduced immigration and greater isolationism.

But at a joint press conference, both Macron and Trump spoke positively about shared history and cultural values, and promoted greater Franco-American cooperation on fighting terrorism, Syria, and trade.

Trump also dangled a vague but tantalizing clue that Macron’s charm offensive may have a chance in swaying him towards compromise on some of France’s priorities.

“Something could happen with respect to the Paris accord,” Trump said, speaking of the international agreement he abandoned just six weeks ago. The former reality television host has a tendency to tease political decisions as if they were prime-time programming. “We’ll see what happens,” he said.  

The trip — Trump’s third to Europe since he took office — provided the White House a measure of respite from Washington. But questions about the extent of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election continued to haunt Trump even thousands of miles away.

Recently released emails show his son, Donald Trump, Jr., eagerly accepted a meeting in June 2016 with a Russian lawyer expressly offering Russian government help to discredit Trump’s presidential rival, Hillary Clinton. Many legal experts — not to mention campaign veterans — were aghast at Trump, Jr.’s decision.

Trump stuck to the line that the invitation, sent through an intermediary, concerned run-of-the-mill opposition research, and that “zero happened” after the meeting with the lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya.

“My son is a wonderful young man, he took a meeting with a Russian lawyer, not a government lawyer,” he argued. “I think from a practical standpoint, most people would have taken that meeting.” (Some former Republican campaign officials have noted that if ever presented with a similar request, they would have called the FBI.)

Back on the other side of the Atlantic, questions continued to swirl over whether Trump Jr.’s meeting crossed into illegal collusion with a foreign government during a campaign, and whether he and other Trump associates would be implicated in an ongoing FBI probe.

The Senate Judiciary Committee requested Thursday that Trump, Jr. testify in an open session of the committee as early as next week. Trump Jr. said earlier this week he was prepared to testify under oath about the meeting, but if he drags his feet, Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), the Senate Judiciary Committee chairman, said he would issue a subpoena.

Photo credit: ALAIN JOCARD/AFP/Getty Images

Kavitha Surana is an editorial fellow at Foreign Policy, where she produces breaking news and original reports with a particular focus on immigration, counterterrorism, and border security policy. Previously, Kavitha worked at New York magazine’s Bedford + Bowery blog, CNNMoney, The Associated Press in Italy, and Fareed Zakaria GPS and has freelanced from Italy and Germany for publications like Quartz, Al Jazeera America, OZY, and GlobalPost/PRI. In 2015, she was awarded a Fulbright trip to Germany, as well as a grant from the Heinrich Böll Foundation to report on migration and integration. She also reported from Rwanda and Senegal. Kavitha studied European history at Columbia University and holds a master’s degree in journalism and European studies from New York University. She has studied in Italy and Peru and speaks Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, and French. @ksurana6

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