Tensions shadow Trump's France visit

President TrumpDonald TrumpBiden heading to Kansas City to promote infrastructure package Trump calls Milley a 'f---ing idiot' over Afghanistan withdrawal First rally for far-right French candidate Zemmour prompts protests, violence MORE's trip to France to mark the centennial of the end of World War I was overshadowed by controversy, underscoring the fraying relationship between the president and his European allies.

In his less than 48 hours in Paris, Trump lashed out at French President Emmanuel Macron on Twitter, drew widespread condemnation after canceling a trip to a cemetery in northern France and found his nationalist agenda the target of a thinly veiled public rebuke.

The weekend revealed a noticeable change in tone in the relationship between Trump and Macron, who earlier in the year had met at the White House, where they embraced and spoke warmly of each other. But the tensions during Trump's latest visit to France put on full display the degree to which the U.S. president has isolated himself from traditional U.S. partners on the world stage.


The trip got off to a rocky start almost immediately when, around the time he landed in Paris on Friday, Trump criticized Macron for his comments on European security cooperation. The president's tweet was in response to a radio interview Macron had given in which he said Europe should prepare to defend itself against cyberattacks from Russia, China and even the U.S.

Macron's comments came amid concerns in Europe over their countries' reliance on U.S. military might for security. Since taking office, Trump has ratcheted up his criticism of European defense spending, insisting the U.S. shoulders too much of the financial burden for keeping Europe safe.

Trump on Friday criticized Macron's comments, which were largely taken out of context by the media, calling them "very insulting," and revived his complaint that European countries don't shoulder enough of the cost to fund NATO.

The two patched things up during a one-on-one meeting on Saturday, where Trump said he supported a "strong Europe" so long as the continent picked up its share of joint defense spending.

But the U.S. president drew controversy once more when the White House canceled his planned visit to a cemetery in northern France due to weather. Chief of staff John KellyJohn Francis KellyMORE and Gen. Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, made the trip instead via motorcade. 

A number of former U.S. officials took to social media to lambast Trump's absence. 

Former CIA Director Michael Hayden blasted the president for "dishonoring the office" with his "grossly inappropriate" behavior.

Former Secretary of State John KerryJohn KerryClimate policies propel a growing dysfunction of Western democracies Kerry calls out countries that need to 'step up' on climate change Those on the front lines of climate change should be empowered to be central to its solution MORE questioned why the weather upended the president's visit.

"Those veterans the president didn’t bother to honor fought in the rain, in the mud, in the snow - & many died in trenches for the cause of freedom. Rain didn’t stop them & it shouldn’t have stopped an American president," Kerry tweeted.

As if to underscore the tension, Macron shared an image of himself and German Chancellor Angela Merkel posing together at the site on Twitter with the caption "Unis," which translates to "united" in English.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders later released a statement clarifying that Trump didn't travel to the cemetery because he didn't want to cause "unexpected disruption to [Paris] and its people" by requiring road closures for his motorcade. 

Macron on Sunday then offered a stinging rebuke of "nationalism," a term Trump and other world leaders have embraced.

"Nationalism is a betrayal of patriotism," Macron said. "By saying our interests first ... we erase what a nation holds dearest, what gives it life, what gives it grace, and what is essential: its moral values."

Macron's remarks — delivered at an Armistice Day ceremony that Trump attended — was seen as a thinly veiled critique of the U.S. president, who has in recent weeks proudly described himself as a nationalist while denying the term has racial undertones.

Dozens of world leaders walked side-by-side on Sunday morning in Paris as bells tolled to mark the official 100-year anniversary of the armistice ending World War I.

Trump was nowhere to be found, as he traveled separately from other world leaders who took a bus together to the Arc de Triomphe. The White House said the president took his motorcade due to "security concerns."

Trump, who paid tribute on Sunday to French and American troops who served in World War I during a ceremony at the Suresnes American Cemetery outside of Paris, has been openly critical of longtime U.S. allies since taking office. He has repeatedly lashed out at leaders in France, Germany and the United Kingdom over policy differences and perceived slights, and angered European allies after withdrawing from both the Paris climate accord and the Iran nuclear deal.

Trump's visit to France this weekend marked his first foreign trip since the midterms. The jaunt was planned in place of a costly and controversial military parade in Washington, D.C. Despite the change in plans, Trump was unable to avoid controversy.

Hundreds of activists gathered at the Place de la République in Paris to protest Trump's visit. Protesters flew a "Baby Trump" balloon similar to the one spotted at protests in London to show their disdain for Trump, who is largely unpopular in Western Europe.

As the president made his way down the Champs-Élysées en route to Sunday morning's ceremony, a topless female protester hopped a barricade and made it within a few meters of Trump's motorcade.

The woman, who was apprehended by security, had the words "fake peacemaker" written across her chest.