Alongside his French counterpart in Paris, President Trump softened his campaign statements blaming France for its terrorism problems due to immigration, declaring the country is “going to be just fine.”
Trump, who was dining atop the Eiffel Tower with first lady Melania Trump, French President Emmanuel Macron and French first lady Brigitte Macron this evening, is in town for bilateral meetings with France’s new leader and a Bastille Day parade on Friday.
At a joint press conference with Macron today, Trump was asked about his past assessments about safety in Paris.
Shortly after the Bastille Day truck attack in Nice, Trump told NBC’s Chuck Todd that Germany and France have “totally been” compromised by terrorism. “And you know what, why? It’s their own fault because they’ve allowed people over years to come into their territory.” He then argued for “extreme vetting.”
At the Conservative Political Action Conference outside of D.C. in February, Trump told the audience of activists, “Take a look at what’s happened in France. Take a look at Nice and Paris.”
“I have a friend, he’s a very, very substantial guy. He loves the City of Lights, he loves Paris. For years, every year during the summer, he would go to Paris, was automatic with his wife and his family. Hadn’t seen him in a while. And I said, Jim, let me ask you a question, how’s Paris doing? ‘Paris? I don’t go there anymore, Paris is no longer Paris.’ That was four years — four or five years hasn’t gone there. He wouldn’t miss it for anything. Now he doesn’t even think in terms of going there,” Trump said.
During the French presidential campaign, Trump told the Associated Press that terrorist attacks in France would “probably help” Marine Le Pen win since “she’s the strongest on borders and she’s the strongest on what’s been going on in France.” Macron resoundingly won the second round in May with 66 percent of the vote.
Today, a French reporter asked Trump about the “Jim” anecdote and about his statements on France being to blame for terrorism. “Those are very strong words. Would you repeat them today?” he asked. “And do you still believe that France is not able to fight terrorism on its own territory?”
“You know what? It’s going to be just fine because you have a great president,” Trump replied. “You have somebody that’s going to run this country right. And I would be willing to bet, because I think this is one of the great cities, one of the most beautiful cities in the world.”
“And you have a great leader now. You have a great president. You have a tough president. He’s not going to be easy on people that are breaking the laws and people that show this tremendous violence,” Trump added.
“So I really have a feeling that you’re going to have a very, very peaceful and beautiful Paris. And I’m coming back.”
As an aside to Macron, Trump said, “You better do a good job, please, otherwise you’re going to make me look very bad.”
Macron said he and Trump discussed “the proper answer to terrorism,” which is “cooperation between our services, and never-ending fight against terrorists no matter where they are.” He did not directly answer a question about Trump’s travel ban from a handful of Muslim-majority countries.
“When it comes to fighting terrorism, from day one, I can say that we’ve seen eye-to-eye and we are strongly determined to take necessary measures in order to root out terrorism and to eradicate it no matter where,” the French president said earlier in the press conference. “On the internet, we agreed to strengthen our action and our cooperation in fighting against propaganda. We want to get all the major operators to limit the propaganda and also tackle cyber criminality.”