PARIS — Colorful pageantry that is a French hallmark greeted President Trump Thursday, as he began a two-day visit to discuss policy and mark Bastille Day with counterpart Emmanuel Macron.
Trump arrived at Elysee Palace for talks with Macron after visiting Les Invalides, the military museum that is home to Napoleon’s tomb Thursday afternoon. Trump was met by at least two dozen horses and a band played the Star Spangled Banner as the two presidents walked across a cobblestone courtyard, trailed by a solider in dress uniform and carrying a sword.
The two men paused at the end of the courtyard, where Macron put his hand on Trump's back and pointed up at a columned facade. Trump and Macron are expected to dine at the Eiffel Tower later.
"Melania and I were thrilled to join the dedicated men and women of the @USEmbassyFrance, members of the U.S. Military and their families," Trump tweeted with a video before arriving at Les Invalides. He had also been scheduled to attend a luncheon with U.S. military leaders.
Trump and Macron are scheduled to host a joint news conference — likely the first time that reporters will be able to ask Trump about the latest developments in the investigation of possible collusion between his campaign and Russians who hacked top Democratic officials.
Trump tweeted video of himself and first lady Melania disembarking Air Force One at the Orly airport south of the French capital.The first lady then visited Necker-Enfants Malades Hospital, the country’s largest children’s hospital, and met with senior officials and patients.
Protesters from the Paris Against Trump collective were planning to demonstrate at the Place des États-Unis near the Arc de Triomphe and where the U.S. Embassy used to be located.
Trump and Macron, who are expected to discuss the fight against terrorism and Syria civil war, have had an up-and-down relationship. Many other European countries are sure to be following the visit for signs of strain or renewed cooperation.
The Bastille Day parade on the Champs-Élysées on Friday will see American soldiers marching alongside their French counterparts to mark the 100th anniversary of America's entry into World War I.
Analysts say inviting Trump to take part in such a high-profile and symbolically-loaded occasion is a savvy move on Macron's part.
"I think it's a very, very clever idea," said Joachim-Fritz Vannahme, the director of European Policy at the Bertelsmann Foundation in Gütersloh, Germany.
"I think the best way to get Trump out of his populist campaign mode is really to talk to him – and Macron now has the possibility to set the tone in quite a charming way."
"Macron's idea is to say please come along and let's talk, even if the outcome isn't as we both expect," he added.
Two months after his election, Macron has set himself up as a global anti-Trump. He has heralded the kinds of multilateral organizations Trump has shied away from and all but mocked the "America First" president over issues like climate change with his pledge to "make the planet great again."
Trump, meanwhile, reportedly told aides he didn't like being "lectured to" by the 39-year-old French president. And yet the 71-year-old U.S. president quickly accepted Macron's invitation.
Trump is deeply unpopular in France, not least because of statements deemed insulting to the country. In February in a speech to U.S. conservatives about the importance of border security, Trump said a friend named Jim told him: "Paris? I don't go there anymore. Paris is no longer Paris."
Eighty-two percent of French people view Trump unfavorably, a stronger disapproval rating than Russia's Vladimir Putin and China’s Xi Jinping, according to a poll released by Suffolk University in May.
Still, an opinion poll in France published by BFMTV, a French broadcaster, this week showed that 59% of the French supported the decision to invite the U.S. president.
Bastille Day, which falls on July 14, is France’s national day and marks the Storming of the Bastille fortress that held political prisoners in 1789, which is credited with starting the French Revolution.
Benjamin Davier, 27, a hotel manager in Nice, said Trump shouldn't have been invited to France.
“Donald Trump doesn’t represent ‘good’ America, in my view, and given his personality, he’s not the best representative we should have on July 14 to celebrate the strong relationship between France and the U.S.," he said. "Americans deserve better."
Last week, Trump attended the G-20 summit in Hamburg, Germany. He returned to Washington on Saturday.
Bhatti reported from Paris, Onyanga-Omara from London and Jackson from Washington.
Contributing: Patrick Costello in Berlin, Elena Berton in Nice, The Associated Press
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