emmanuel macron

France’s armed forces chief resigns over Macron budget cuts

PARIS (Reuters) – France’s head of the armed forces resigned on Wednesday after a heated dispute with Emmanuel Macron over defense budget cuts, bringing to a head an early test of the newly elected president’s mettle.

In a statement, 60 year-old Pierre de Villiers said he had tried to maintain a French defense force with the ability to do an increasingly difficult job within the financial constraints imposed on it, but was no longer able to sustain that.

“In the current circumstances I see myself as no longer able to guarantee the robust defense force I believe is necessary to guarantee the protection of France and the French people, today and tomorrow, and to sustain the aims of our country,” he said.

Macron had accepted his resignation, de Villiers added.

A fierce row broke out last week between the two men just two months after Macron was elected, and just as France prepared for the military pomp of a July 14 Bastille Day parade where Macron’s U.S. counterpart Donald Trump was the guest of honor.

De Villiers, appearing before a closed-door hearing of parliamentarians – had used strong language to protest at the 850 million euro ($979.46 million) defense budget cut Macron was making as part of his efforts to rein in state spending.

“I won’t let myself be fucked like that,” he said according to two parliamentary sources. “I may be stupid, but I know when I am being had.”

Macron had gone public with his rebuke. “I have made commitments, I am your boss,” he said in a speech to dozens of top army officers and their families.


7 reasons why Macron’s speech about the Holocaust in France was groundbreaking

JTA — It wasn’t the first time that a French president acknowledged his nation’s Holocaust-era guilt, but Emmanuel Macron’s speech Sunday was nonetheless groundbreaking in format, content and style.

Delivered during a ceremony at the Vel d’Hiv Holocaust memorial monument exactly 75 years after French police officers rounded up 13,152 Jews there for deportation to Nazi death camps, the 35-minute address was Macron’s first about the Holocaust since the centrist won the presidency in May.

Evocative and more forthright than any of the speeches on the subject delivered by Macron’s predecessors, his address “relieved the feeling of isolation” experienced by many Jews due to anti-Semitism today, according to Rabbi Delphine Horvilleur of the Liberal Jewish movement in France.

Macron’s speech “made me proud to be French and Jewish,” she said.

Here are six significant ways that the address differed from those of previous French presidents, including in scope; the unusual role played at the event by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu; its references to present realities, and Macron’s emotional delivery.

1.Monsieur le Premier Ministre

It was the first time that an Israeli head of state attended the annual commemoration for the Vel d’Hiv deportations of July 16-17, 1942, named after the Velodrome d’Hiver stadium that used to stand near the monument.

Netanyahu was invited despite objections on Muslim websites, by the Communist Party and the party of the far-left leader Jean-Luc Melenchon — although the invitation came from the CRIF federation of French Jewish communities and not by the Elysee Presidential Palace, as reported by some French media. The Elysee, which organized the event, did not object publicly to Netanyahu’s attendance and facilitated it.

The arrival of Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, in a motorcade whose limousines sported gold-fringed Israeli flags electrified the predominantly Jewish audience of 1,200 people. Holocaust survivors in their 80s and 90s approached the monument railing to catch a glimpse of the Israelis as others reacted with thunderous applause.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (2nd L) and French President Emmanuel Macron (2nd R) pay their respects after laying wreaths during a ceremony commemorating the 75th anniversary of the Vel d'Hiv roundup in Paris on July 16, 2017. (AFP Photo/Pool/Kamil Zihnioglu)

They oohed and applauded as Netanyahu delivered the first part of his speech in French, which he speaks with a thick accent and some errors, but understands without requiring translation. And they nodded as he urged Macron to stand with Israel and fight “the cancerous spread of militant Islam” and “hate that starts with the Jews but never ends there,” as Netanyahu defined it.

But their enthusiasm for Netanyahu was dwarfed by the deafening applause they gave Macron when he responded to Netanyahu.

2. Anti-Zionism and the reinvention of anti-Semitism

Addressing Netanyahu, Macron assured the Israeli leader and listeners that “we will continue our fight against terrorism and the worst kinds of fanaticism,” adding: “So yes, we will never surrender to the expressions of hatred; we will not surrender to anti-Zionism because it is a reinvention of anti-Semitism.”

Articulated in recent years by Manuel Valls, a former prime minister of France, Macron’s statement was the first time an incumbent president in France equated anti-Zionism – a fairly popular sentiment in France – with anti-Semitism. It triggered several emotional yelps from the audience and applause so vigorous, it caused the tarp strung up over the monument plaza for security reasons to vibrate.

There was another wave of applause when, unusually, Macron and Netanyahu hugged publicly after Netanyahu’s speech.

French President Emmanuel Macron embraces Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a ceremony commemorating the 75th anniversary of the Vel d'Hiv roundup in Paris on July 16, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / POOL / Kamil Zihnioglu)

3. Deeper, farther

Much of Macron’s speech was devoted to establishing France’s complicity in the murder of 25 percent of its Jewish population during the Holocaust and deconstructing apologist views on the subject.

Speaking plainly and avoiding metaphors, Macron sounded less like a politician than a historian or a prosecutor who is committed to factual accuracy.

In the first admission of Holocaust culpability by a French president, Jacques Chirac in 1995 said that “Frenchmen, the French state assisted the criminal folly of the occupier,” resulting in a failure to uphold the nation’s values and an “irreparable crime.”

And Francois Hollande in 2012 said the roundups were a “crime committed in France, by France.”

But the Macron address delivered Sunday “was a precedent-setting speech that went deeper, on a pedagogic level, than addresses that preceded it by French presidents,” said Serge Klarsfeld, a historian and one of France’s leading researchers on the Holocaust.

Macron’s speech was the first presidential address that named individual collaborators who helped the Nazis kill Jews, including René Bousquet, a police chief who was indicted for planning the Vel d’Hiv roundups, but died in 1993 before his trial.

A memorial to the Vel' d'Hiv Roundup, on Quai de Grenelle in Paris. (CC BY-SA Leonieke Aalders, Wikimedia commons)

“France organized the roundups,” Macron said. “Not a single German participated.” And so France “in almost every aspect organized the death” of the victims.

More jarringly to many French ears, he said the collaborationist Vichy government “was not replaced overnight” by the free French government that succeeded it after the country’s liberation in World War II.

“Ministers, civil servants, police officers, economy officials, unions, teachers” from the Vichy government were all incorporated into the post World War II government that replaced it, Macron said.

By touching on France’s perceived failure to purge itself of collaborators and their legacy, Macron differentiated himself from all of France’s presidents after Francois Mitterrand. Klarsfeld praised Macron for pointing out how Mitterrand and postwar leader Charles de Gaulle “remained silent on the historical truth” about collaboration “in favor of appeasement and reconciliation.”

Macron said he “does not judge” his predecessors who remained silent on the issue.

During his speech, Macron said “It is very convenient to view Vichy as a monstrosity, born of nothing and returned to nothing.” But it is “false. We cannot base any pride on a lie.” Rather than weaken the French nation, as argued by National Front politicians, admitting its guilt “opened the path to correcting” its faults, Macron said.

4. Refuting revisionists

Speaking about the Vichy puppet government, Macron deconstructed the main revisionist talking points put forward by the French far right led by the National Front party under Marine Le Pen. In April, Le Pen argued that the government’s actions in World War II do not represent France as a nation.

France's far-right National Front (FN) leader and parliamentary candidate Marine Le Pen speaks (C) after the polls closed during the second round of the French parliamentary elections (elections legislatives in French) on June 18, 2017 in Henin-Beaumont, northern France. (Denis Charlet/AFP)

“I reject the attempts to absolve one’s conscious by those who claim Vichy wasn’t France,” Macron said. No other French president had said this in these terms.

5. L’affaire Halimi

Responding to repeated pleas by French Jews – including at the Vel d’Hiv event during a speech by CRIF President Francis Kalifat – Macron for the first time commented on the death of Sarah Halimi.

Halimi, a 66-year-old physician, was killed by a Muslim neighbor, Kobili Traore, who shouted about Allah before he killed her. Halimi’s daughter said that Traore had called her a “dirty Jew.” Yet in what CRIF considers a “cover-up,” the indictment filed against Traore last week does not categorize the killing as a hate crime.

In his address, Netanyahu counted Halimi among other French Jews murdered in recent years by Islamists.

Sarah Halimi (Courtesy of the Confédération des Juifs de France et des amis d'Israël)

Macron replied: “Despite the denials of the murderer, the judiciary must as soon as possible provide maximum clarity on the death of Sarah Halimi.” Klarsfeld said it was a strong message that will “probably induce change” in how Traore is tried.

6. Emotion

A rational and analytical thinker with a background in banking and economics, Macron surprised many of his listeners with the apparent intensity of his intonation and body language during the speech.

“Above all, the speech was special for his palpable emotion,” Horvilleur said.

7. Vision

Like many others Horvilleur, the Liberal rabbi, was “deeply moved” by Macron’s remarks at the end of his speech about how the children deported from Vel d’Hiv informs how he views his role as president.

Children “who wanted to go to school, graduate, find work, start a family, read, watch a show, learn and travel,” he said. “I want to tell those children that France has not forgotten them. That she loves them. That their tragic fate demands of us never to give up to hate, rancor or despair.”

Macron denounces anti-Zionism as a new form of anti-Semitism

French president Emmanuel Macron on Sunday condemned anti-Zionism as a new form of anti-Semitism, in what observers said was an unprecedented statement from the leader of France in support of the Jewish state.

“We will never surrender to the messages of hate; we will not surrender to anti-Zionism because it is a reinvention of anti-Semitism,” Macron said an event in Paris marking the mass deportation of French Jews during World War II. He was directly addressing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who attended the event.

During a lengthy and introspective speech commemorating the 75th anniversary of the Vel d’Hiv roundup, a mass arrest of 13,152 French Jews in July 1942 that was part of the Nazi effort to eradicate the Jews of France, Macron forcefully denounced Holocaust denial and anti-Semitism.

Like several of his predecessors, Macron accepted France’s responsibility for the deportations, admitting that the Vichy regime actively organized them. “It is indeed France that organized” the roundup, Macron said. “Not a single German” took part, he added.

French President Emmanuel Macron delivers a speech during a ceremony commemorating the 75th anniversary of the Vel d'Hiv roundup in Paris on July 16, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / POOL / Kamil Zihnioglu)

“Time does its work,” the president said. “Archives open (and) the truth comes out. It’s stark, irrevocable. It imposes itself on us all.”

In 1995, then-president Jacques Chirac was the first French leader to admit his nation was guilty of having assisted in the mass murder of Jews.

Fewer than 100 of those who were detained at the so-called Vel d’Hiv and then sent to the Nazi death camps survived.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pays his respects after laying a wreath during a ceremony commemorating the 75th anniversary of the Vel d'Hiv roundup in Paris on July 16, 2017. French President Emmanuel Macron on July 16 marked 75 years since the roundup of some 13,000 Jews to be sent to Nazi death camps, calling France's responsibility a "stark truth." (AFP PHOTO / POOL / Kamil Zihnioglu)

In a clear reference to far-right leader Marine Le Pen, the rival he defeated in May, Macron denounced “politicians who are prepared to reverse the truth.”

France's far-right National Front (FN) leader and parliamentary candidate Marine Le Pen speaks (C) after the polls closed during the second round of the French parliamentary elections (elections legislatives in French) on June 18, 2017 in Henin-Beaumont, northern France. (Denis Charlet/AFP)

Le Pen had insisted during the campaign that today’s France could not be held accountable for the Vichy regime’s actions.

Netanyahu was the first Israeli leader to speak at the annual event in memory of the Vel d’Hiv roundup, which led to criticism by some leftist Jewish French groups, who argued that this event had nothing to do with Israel.

During his speech, delivered partially in French but mostly in English, Netanyahu hailed French citizens who protected Jews during World War II and vowed never to let Holocaust be repeated.

“Seventy-five years ago, a heavy darkness descended on this City of Lights,” he said adding that the Nazis and their collaborators in France “shattered the lives of thousands of French Jews at Vel’ d’Hiv.”

But he praised “Chirac and successive presidents” who deserved “much credit for telling the truth.”

A memorial to the Vel' d'Hiv Roundup, on Quai de Grenelle in Paris. (CC BY-SA Leonieke Aalders, Wikimedia commons)

During the Holocaust, the values of the French Revolution – liberty, equality and fraternity – were brutally crushed “under the boot of anti-Semitism,” he went on. “Yet we must say, and we heard it today as well, we must say that not all was dark.”

Netanyahu then saluted “the noble French citizens” who risked their lives to rescue fellow Frenchmen, such as the residents of Chambon-sur-Lignon who saved thousands of Jews.

“This is a special heroism. We have known in Israel a lot of heroism, as have you here in France. This is different heroism,” Netanyahu said. “There is heroism in battle, in pitting one’s life to save others. But the heroism of the people who saved Jews involved putting their families at risk, putting their children, their wives, their husbands, at the risk of execution… We will never forget, never, these great, great human beings.”

French President Emmanuel Macron welcomes Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu at the Elysee palace in Paris, July 16, 2017 (Haim Tzach/GPO)

After the Holocaust, the State of Israel was established to guarantee that the Jewish people will never undergo a Holocaust again, Netanyahu said. “Never again. We will never let it happen again.”

Turning to the present, the prime minister spoke about a “war of civilization” between radical Islam and the West. “Militant Islam wants to destroy our common civilization. The militant Shiites led by Iran, the militant Sunnis led by ISIS – both seek to vanquish us,” he declared.

In the jihadists’ view Israel is merely the first Western target that stands in the way of their goal, he added. “Militant Islamists do not hate the West because of Israel. To the contrary, they hate Israel because of the West, because they rightly see in Israel a forward bastion of our common values of freedom, humanism, democracy. They try to destroy us, but also they try to destroy you.”

Netanyahu, who spoke ahead of Macron, praised the new president for condemning anti-Semitism and “this larger militancy that seeks to destroy our world.”

Israel identifies with France in its struggle against terrorism, the prime minister continued. “The zealots of militant Islam who seek to destroy you, seek to destroy us as well. We must stand against them together; we must remain strong against them together; and we must defeat them together.”

The event was also attended by famed French Nazi hunter Serge Klarsfeld; Francis Kalifat, the head of French-Jewish umbrella group CRIF, and several leaders of organizations representing French Holocaust survivors.

After the ceremony, Netanyahu and Macron headed to the Elysee palace for their first formal working meeting.

Trump warms up to Macron in third overseas trip

President Trump returned from his third journey abroad this week buoyed by the success of a two-day tour in Paris that was designed to feature his newly forged bond with French President Emmanuel Macron.

The bonhomie of Trump’s meetings in France came as a surprise to some observers given that the president had offered veiled support for Marine Le Pen, Macron’s election opponent, and that former President Barack Obama endorsed Macron shortly before he won election in May by highlighting Macron’s embrace of “liberal values.”

Trump had repeatedly characterized Paris as a terrorists’ paradise when he was himself a presidential candidate, stoking concerns that the two leaders’ divergent worldviews would prevent them from connecting.

But Charles Kupchan, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, said Trump and Macron are less incompatible than they may appear at first glance. Kupchan noted Macron, while a “political centrist,” is also viewed as a “maverick” with anti-establishment leanings and, like Trump, had no experience running for office before he won the presidency in France earlier this year.

Their similarities could provide the foundation for a relationship that ultimately allows Trump to have a primary point of contact in Europe other than German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has openly criticized Trump for withdrawing from the Paris climate accords.

Spencer Phipps Boyer, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and a former Obama administration official, said Macron has labored to build a “rapport” with Trump “that hasn’t yet developed with President Trump and Chancellor Merkel.”

“President Macron obviously went out of his way to make sure he didn’t say anything to antagonize President Trump,” Boyer said of Trump’s trip to France this week. “I think this contrasts with Chancellor Merkel. Obviously, both Macron and Merkel have been very clear on their differences with the United States.”

Indeed, Macron and Trump glossed over potential points of contention during a joint appearance in Paris on Thursday, when journalists pressed them on climate change and Trump’s past comments about Paris. Both leaders sidestepped what could have been an opportunity to bash the other in order to focus on areas where their governments agree, such as military cooperation in the fight against the Islamic State.

Boyer said Macron likely scored a political victory at home by hosting the American president this week and flaunting their friendship for the world to see.

“Critics who point to his youth and relative inexperience in politics, this was a way for him to, I think, show that he could be looked at as an important leader in Europe in terms of his relationship with the United States,” Boyer said.

Trump, too, had a political incentive to accept Macron’s invitation to spend Bastille Day in Paris as his guest of honor, Boyer noted.

“I think Trump jumped at the opportunity because his previous trips to Europe have gone so poorly and the narrative of those meetings was that the world has kind of a very negative impression of this administration, that President Trump is deeply unpopular in Europe, and that trans-Atlantic relations are in a bad place,” Boyer said.

He pointed to Trump’s journey to a NATO meeting and the G-7 summit in May, during which he declined to endorse NATO’s collective defense commitment, clashed with other leaders on trade and withheld support for the Paris accords, from which he later withdrew.

Some European leaders bristled at Trump’s “America First” rhetoric and his blunt criticism of NATO allies who have failed to meet their defense spending commitments. Although Trump’s aversion to the globalist policies of his predecessor were no secret before his overseas debut, the trip set the tone for his administration’s relations with Europe.

“He came into office dismissive of NATO, hostile to the European Union and seemingly ready to turn his back on America’s traditional democratic allies in favor of building a new relationship with Russia and pursuing what he calls ‘America First,'” said Kupchan. “That caused an enormous amount of consternation on the other side of that, so much so that after Trump’s first visit to Europe, Chancellor Merkel goes back home and says, ‘We can’t rely on our friends like we used to.'”

Merkel issued her thinly-veiled criticism of the Trump administration and the U.K.’s decision to exit the European Union just days after the conclusion of the G-7 summit, at which Trump had said Germany is “very bad” on trade.

“Since then, I think both sides have sobered up. And the Europeans, they have made it clear that they’re not going to wait around for Trump when it comes to the Paris agreement or to free trade or to European integration,” Kupchan said. “And I think Trump, on his part, has become more skeptical of the idea of rapprochement with Russia, he has supported a strong NATO, he went back to Europe soon after his last trip, which is quite unusual, to build a stronger relationship with Macron, so I would say things have moved in the right direction.”

During a sweeping speech in Poland on his second trip to Europe, which took place earlier this month, Trump made explicit his support for the Article 5 collective defense commitment of NATO, a move that was viewed by some as an acknowledgement that his initial reluctance to back the article had ruffled feathers. His endorsement marked a nearly complete reversal from his previous claim that NATO had become “obsolete.”

Macron: Talks with Trump are ‘obvious and indispensable’

PARIS (AP) — French President Emmanuel Macron said Thursday it is “obvious and indispensable” to have exchanges with US President Donald Trump as the two leaders were set to meet to try to push past major differences and find common ground on security, defense and other issues.

Macron spoke at a news conference following a meeting in Paris with German Chancellor Angela Merkel who, like Macron, was deeply disappointed in Trump’s recent decision to withdraw the US from a global agreement to combat climate change.

Merkel said differences with the US are “regrettable” but that communication continues.

Trump arrived in the French capital on Thursday after an overnight flight from Washington for a whirlwind, 36-hour visit to meet with Macron and tackle potential solutions to the crisis in Syria and discuss broader counterterrorism strategies. Macron and his wife, Brigitte, greeted Trump and first lady Melania Trump at Les Invalides, site of Napoleon’s tomb. Macron led Trump a tour before they drove a short distance to the French presidential palace for their talks.

Trump planned Friday to participate in Bastille Day celebrations and commemorate the 100th anniversary of the US entry into World War I before returning to Washington.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel (L) and French President Emmanuel Macron deliver a joint press conference at the Elysee Palace in Paris on July 13, 2017. (AFP PHhoto/Patrick Kovarik)

The president’s decision last month to withdraw the US from the Paris climate accord sparked outrage across Europe, and anti-Trump protests are planned while he is in Paris. Macron, a staunch advocate of research to combat global warming, has beckoned “all responsible citizens,” including American scientists and researchers, to bring their fight against climate change to France. Trump said the climate deal was unfair to the US.

Trump, Merkel, Macron and other leaders huddled last week in Hamburg, Germany, during a summit of the world’s leading rich and developing nations. Merkel and Macron met again Thursday in Paris, before Macron’s meeting with Trump. Trump and Merkel were not expected to meet.

Merkel said during a joint appearance with Macron that it’s important to keep talking with Trump even where the differences are clear. She said last week’s summit showed that common ground exists, for example, on fighting terrorism, but that “we also had to name clear differences, for instance regrettably the difference on whether we need the Paris climate accord or not.”

She added: “We did not paper over these differences, but nevertheless contact, the ability to speak is of course important.”

Macron said Germany and France agree on the importance of close ties with the United States, despite the differences.

Trump and Macron also planned a joint news conference Thursday after their talks, where Trump may be asked to respond to Merkel and to questions about emails showing that his eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., welcomed the prospect of receiving Russian government support in last year’s presidential campaign between his father and Hillary Clinton.

Trump defended his son Wednesday, praising his performance in a Fox News Channel interview. Trump tweeted: “He was open, transparent and innocent. This is the greatest Witch Hunt in political history. Sad!”

The visit to Paris could offer Trump a brief distraction from the controversy. He will mark the 100th anniversary of America’s entry into World War I by visiting US troops. He’ll also be the guest of honor at Friday’s Bastille Day events — a celebration of French national pride. White House officials are casting it as a celebration of the US-French military alliance — both then and now.

The leaders and their wives will cap Thursday with a lavish dinner at the Jules Verne restaurant in the Eiffel Tower.

French President Emmanuel Macron (2R) and his wife Brigitte Macron (R) and US President Donald Trump (2L) and First Lady Melania Trump visit Marechal Foch's tomb at Les Invalides in Paris, on July 13, 2017. (AFP Photo/Pool/Ian Langsdon)

Trump is visiting a city he has repeatedly disparaged. When he announced his decision on the climate agreement, Trump said he was “elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris.” And he’s repeatedly said the city has been ruined by the threat of terrorism, which he ties to immigrants.

“Paris isn’t Paris any longer,” he said in February.

But counterterrorism issues give Macron and Trump the potential for a strong working relationship.

Macron’s national security pitch hasn’t differed drastically from Trump’s. On Syria, he argues for intervention, saying that President Bashar Assad is a threat to Syria and the Islamic State group is a threat to France. France has been plagued in recent years by extremist attacks. During last year’s Bastille Day celebrations, a 19-ton cargo truck deliberately plowed into crowds in Nice, killing more than 80 people.

Macron supports intervention against Syria’s government in response to its use of chemical weapons and could prove an important ally as the Trump administration seeks to increase pressure against Assad. But in doing so, they’ll need to tackle the issue of Russia’s support for Assad, something Trump has only passively acknowledged.

President Trump Seeks Consensus With France’s Macron Despite Differences



PARIS — U.S. President Donald Trump has certainly had his differences with Emmanuel Macron, including clashing on climate change and exchanging surly handshakes with the younger French president.

The pair will try to put all that aside, however, and instead find some common ground when they meet Thursday ahead of France’s Bastille Day celebrations.

Trump arrived in the French capital on an overnight flight from Washington and will discuss Syria and broader counterterrorism strategies with Macron. On Friday, he will then participate in the Bastille Day parade.

Air Force One landed just after 8:30 a.m. local time (2:30 a.m. ET) on a cool, overcast day in the French capital. The president wore a suit and blue tie and the first lady a red dress with a flowing skirt and high-heeled pumps.

Trump then traveled to the U.S. Ambassador’s Residence, a French mansion with lush, well-kept grounds and staff already rushing about ahead of a big two days.

First lady Melania Trump meanwhile visited Hopital Necker Enfants Malades, a sprawling children’s hospital in the center of Paris, where she chatted with children in French, one of the five languages she speaks, according to her spokeswoman, Stephanie Grisham.

Later Thursday, Trump and Macron will hold meetings and a press conference. During the latter the U.S. president may face tough questions about emails revealing that his eldest son welcomed the prospect of receiving Russian government support in last year’s presidential campaign against Hillary Clinton.

Then in the evening, the French president and his wife, Brigitte Macron, will host the U.S. president, the first lady and their delegation for a dinner at the famous Le Jules Verne restaurant, which enjoys stunning views from its perch on the second level of the Eiffel Tower.

Getting rdy to leave for France @ the invitation of President Macron to celebrate & honor Bastille Day and 100yrs since U.S. entry into WWI.

This all tees up the Trumps attending the celebrations for Bastille Day, France’s most important national day that marks a key turning point in the French Revolution in 1789.

The trip is an attempt to build bridges after Trump’s decision last month to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris climate accord sparked outrage across Europe.

There are also several protest marches planned for Thursday and Friday, one of which is calling for a “No Trump Zone” in one of the city’s central squares.

Related: Wray Says Russia Probe Not a ‘Witch Hunt,’ Pledges ‘Independent’ FBI

The visit to Paris could offer Trump a well-timed distraction from the controversy surrounding Donald Trump Jr.’s email revelations.

It will mark the 100th anniversary of America’s entry into World War I by visiting U.S. troops. The president will also be the guest of honor at Friday’s Bastille Day events — a celebration of French national pride. White House officials are casting it as a celebration of the U.S.-French military alliance — both then and now.

Trump is visiting a city he has repeatedly disparaged. When he announced his decision on the climate agreement, Trump said he was “elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris.” And he’s repeatedly said the city has been ruined by the threat of terrorism, which he ties to immigrants.

“Paris isn’t Paris any longer,” he said in February.

But counterterrorism issues give Macron and Trump the potential for a strong working relationship.

Macron’s national security pitch hasn’t differed drastically from Trump’s. On Syria, he argues for intervention, saying that President Bashar al-Assad is a threat to Syria and ISIS is a threat to France.

Related: Hottest Question on the Hill: Would You Meet With a Russian?

France has been plagued in recent years by extremist attacks. During last year’s Bastille Day celebrations, a 19-ton cargo truck deliberately plowed into crowds in Nice, killing more than 80 people.

Macron supports intervention against Syria’s government in response to its use of chemical weapons and could prove an important ally as the Trump administration seeks to increase pressure against Assad.

But in doing so, they’ll need to tackle the issue of Russia’s support for Assad, something Trump has only passively acknowledged.

Macron party wins massive majority in French parliament

PARIS, France (AFP) — French President Emmanuel Macron’s centrist party won a massive majority in parliamentary elections on Sunday, dominating the country’s traditional forces in a dramatic re-drawing of the political map.

Macron’s year-old Republic on the Move (REM) and their allies were set to win between 355 and 425 seats in the 577-seat National Assembly, according to partial results after the second round of an election in which many high-profile figures were thrown out.

The result, if confirmed, would give 39-year-old Macron one of France’s biggest post-war majorities, strengthening his hand in implementing his program of business-friendly reforms.

The assembly is set to be transformed with a new generation of lawmakers — younger, more ethnically diverse and with far more women than the outgoing parliament.

But turnout stood at a record low of around 44 percent, leading opposition leaders to claim he had no groundswell of support.

French President Emmanuel Macron attends a ceremony marking the 77th anniversary of late French General Charles de Gaulle's appeal of June 18, 1940, at the Mont Valerien memorial in Suresnes, outside of Paris, on June 18, 2017. (Bertrand GUAY/POOL/AFP)

The winning margin was lower than was forecast during the past week, when some estimates suggested REM and its allies could secure as many as 470 seats.

“A clear majority has voted for us,” REM spokesman Benjamin Griveaux told TF1, adding: “It will be a majority with an opposition and that’s good news.”

Desire for change

Just months ago, Macron was given little chance of becoming president, never mind controlling parliament, but he and the movement he founded 16 months ago have tapped into widespread desire for wholesale change.

His party dominated France’s traditional parties, the right-wing Republicans and Socialists, but also the far-right National Front (FN) of Marine Le Pen — whom he defeated in the presidential run-off — which fell far short of its target.

France's far-right National Front (FN) leader and parliamentary candidate Marine Le Pen speaks (C) after the polls closed during the second round of the French parliamentary elections (elections legislatives in French) on June 18, 2017 in Henin-Beaumont, northern France. (Denis Charlet/AFP)

Le Pen, who entered parliament for the first time in her career, told supporters her FN had won at least six seats — but the party was certain to fall short of its target of 15 seats.

“We are the only force of resistance to the watering down of France, of its social model and its identity,” she said defiantly.

Le Pen’s victory in the northern former coal-mining town of Henin-Beaumont was a rare bright spot for her nationalist and anti-EU party that was once hoping to emerge as the principal opposition to Macron.

The Socialists were the biggest losers of the night, punished by association with years of high unemployment, social unrest and lost national confidence.

“The rout of the Socialist Party is undeniable,” said PS leader Jean-Christophe Cambadelis, who lost his seat in the humiliating first round.

The party shed around 200 seats after five years in power under former president Francois Hollande, leaving them with only around 27 to 49 seats.

The Republicans hung on to between 97 and 130 seats, down from over 200 in the last parliament, and remain the main opposition party.

The party had enough seats to “defend its convictions,” said the party’s leader for the elections, Francois Baroin, calling on Macron to heed the record-low turnout, which he said sent “a message.”

“The task he faces is immense,” he added.

Despite the zest for political renewal, the vote failed to generate much excitement.

Official statistics showed turnout at a near 60-year low, revealing a high degree of election fatigue after four votes in under two months.

Virtual unknowns

Around half of REM’s candidates are virtual unknowns, drawn from diverse fields of academia, business or local activism. They include a mathematician, a former Rwandan orphan and a female bullfighter.

The other half are a mix of centrists and moderate left- and right-wing politicians drawn from established parties including ally MoDem.

La Republique en marche (REM) party's candidate for the legislative elections in the Gard second constituency, former bullfighter on horseback Marie Sara (1st-L) answers the press in Aigues Mortes, southern France, after the polls closed in the second round of the French parliamentary elections on June 18, 2017. (SYLVAIN THOMAS / AFP_

“People are tired of always seeing the same faces,” said Natacha Dumay, a 59-year-old teacher voting in the northeastern Paris suburb of Pantin, where Socialist former justice minister Elisabeth Guigou was voted out a week ago.

“Even if we don’t know the new faces, it’s not important. We’re not voting for individuals, but for a program,” Dumay added.

The hard-left France Unbowed also struggled to maintain the momentum it had during the presidential election. It was forecast to win only between 10 and 30 seats.

Jean-Luc Melenchon, the firebrand leader of the movement, is running for election in the southern city of Marseille on a promise to lead resistance to Macron’s radical labor market reforms.

Apart from loosening labor laws to try to boost employment, Macron also plans measures to deepen European integration and an overhaul of the social security system.

His confident start at home, where he has concentrated on trying to restore the lost prestige of the president, and his decisive action on the international stage have led to a host of positive headlines.

A French Jew’s killing provides a test for the new Macron administration

Emmanuel Macron

(JTA) – Before he threw Sarah Halimi to her death from a window of her third-story apartment in Paris, 27-year-old Kobili Traore called his Jewish neighbor “Satan” and cried out for Allah.

These and other facts about the April 4 incident that shocked French Jewry are known from testimonies and a recording made by a neighbor, according to the National Bureau for Vigilance Against Anti-Semitism watchdog.

Years before the attack, Traore called a daughter of his 65-year-old victim, whom he beat savagely before killing, “a dirty Jewess,” the daughter said.

Despite these accounts Traore, who reportedly has no history of mental illness, was placed under psychiatric evaluation as per his temporary insanity claim. Prosecutors presented a draft indictment against him for voluntary manslaughter that contains no mention of the aggravated element of a hate crime.

The omission, along with the perceived indifference of authorities and the media in France to a crime that was largely eclipsed by a dramatic elections campaign, has left many members and leaders of the country’s traumatized Jewish community feeling marginalized and angry at a society they say is reluctant to confront anti-Semitism head-on.

“The authorities’ failure to state the terrorist and anti-Semitic nature of this murder is nothing unusual,” Shmuel Trigano, an author of 24 books and a scholar on anti-Semitism, said in an interview on Radio J three weeks after the killing.

Trigano for years has been accusing French authorities of turning a blind eye to anti-Semitism – including at times when leaders of French Jewry praised their government for taking extraordinary measures to protect Jews, particularly for deploying thousands of armed soldiers around Jewish institutions for their protection following the murder of four Jews at a kosher supermarket in Paris in January 2015.

Yet amid silence by authorities and the national media about the April 4 killing, l’affaire Halimi has emerged as a rallying issue for Jewish leaders, activists and prominent thinkers. They say the investigation is indicative of a deeper problem in French society and the community’s first major test for the administration of the newly elected president, Emmanuel Macron.

“Everything about this crime suggests there is an ongoing denial of reality” by authorities, 17 French intellectuals wrote this month in an open letter published in Le Figaro. “We demand all the truth be brought to light in the murder of Sarah Halimi,” added the authors, including Alain Finkielstein, a Jewish philosopher and member of the Academie Francaise — the guardian of French language and culture.

Amid growing criticism by its constituents CRIF, the umbrella group of French Jewish communities, substituted its calls for patience for authorities’ handling of the investigation with open criticism over its handling and bid to intervene legally.

“A Jewish woman, a physician who ran a kindergarten, was murdered at her home amid cries of ‘Allah hu akbar,” CRIF Vice President Robert Ejnes wrote in a statement titled “An Increasingly Heavy Silence” nearly two months after the incident. The phrase “Allah hu akbar,” which means “God is great” in Arabic, is sometimes linked to terrorist attacks.

The judiciary, Ejnes added, “has not referenced the anti-Semitic character of the murder but it is clear that Ms. Sarah Halimi of blessed memory was killed because she was Jewish by a murderer motivated by Islamism.”

And the media “has practically not spoken about this, as though the defenestration of a woman is not unusual in Paris in 2017!” he wrote, giving voice to one of the aspects of the affair that many French Jews say is among its most painful aspects.

But it was the open letter by the 17 intellectuals on June 4 that broke the silence in the national media about that affair, according to Hervé Gardette, a journalist for the France Culture state radio station. On June 8, Gardette investigated the case in a program titled “Is There a Denial of Anti-Semitism in France?”

Long before the Halimi case, Jewish leaders and thinkers have been complaining for years of a reluctance in society to face inconvenient truths about crimes when their victims happen to be Jewish.

Gardette, who is not Jewish, acknowledged this on his show.

“Strikingly, this murder immediately brings to mind another older murder, of Ilan Halimi in 2006, 24 days after his abduction, and how long it took back then for the anti-Semitic character of the crime to be admitted by the detectives and journalists. So nothing has changed,” he said. “Is there a denial of anti-Semitism in France?”

Ilan Halimi (no relation), a Jewish phone salesman, was abducted, tortured and murdered by a gang led by a career criminal with a history of targeting mostly Jewish victims.

In an open letter addressed to French Interior Minister Gerard Collomb, the French-Jewish philosopher and historian Alexandra Laignel-Lavastine suggested the silence around the Sarah Halimi case stems from the establishment’s desire not to offend Muslims — and to deprive the anti-Muslim far right, led by the leader of the National Front party Marine Le Pen, of campaign fodder.

“Insisting on not calling a spade a spade, minimizing (‘isolated acts’ and ‘lone wolves’), euphemizing (‘children lost to jihad’), justifying, banalizing and playing psychiatrist will get us nowhere,” Laignel-Lavastine wrote.

As for Macron, his official platform speaks of “fighting with determination against all radical streams that distort the values” of Islam, and the distrust of institutions, conspiracy theories and anti-Semitism they represent. But Macron has remained vague on solutions, proposing to conduct the fight by “helping French Muslims to achieve the [restructuring] of their institutions.”

Those who believe that France, despite its previous government’s strong mobilization to protect Jews, has a denial problem cite a long list of cases that they say have been swept under the carpet.

According to Trigano’s research, the French government under former President Jacques Chirac suppressed the anti-Semitic characteristics of at least 500 assaults recorded in the years 2000-02, when anti-Jewish incidents grew from a few dozen annually to hundreds of incidents each year.

More recent cases included the omission of an anti-Semitic motive in a draft indictment against the alleged perpetrators of a 2014 rape and robbery of a Jewish family in the Paris suburb of Creteil. The hate crime element was added following a public outcry.

In 2015, a man who stabbed three Jews near a synagogue in Marseille while crying Allah’s name was initially labeled mentally ill by police, who revised their indictment to omit any reference to mental health following criticism by Jewish leaders.

The question about denial “needs to be asked, and in those terms,” Alain Jakubowicz, president of the International League Against Racism and Anti-Semitism – the French counterpart of the Anti-Defamation League – said during the June 8 radio broadcast. “There is a denial of reality when it comes to this new form of anti-Semitism, which is as deadly as the previous and which poses a problem particularly in France.”

Scholars and watchdogs also worry that anti-Semitic acts are labeled and minimized as “anti-Israel.” The scrapping this year of a documentary about this phenomenon — what some call the “new anti-Semitism” — by the Franco-German Arte television channel “shows the specific treatment of this subject in France, as opposed to other countries,” said Jakubowicz.

Magali Lafourcade, president of the French government’s National Consultative Commission on Human Rights, said she welcomes the debate over whether authorities downplay anti-Semitism and hate crimes. However, referring to the Halimi case during the France Culture broadcast, she said “we need to let the judiciary do its job” and detectives need time to review all aspects of the case.

In March, Lafourcade’s commission reported a 50 percent drop in the number of anti-Semitic crimes, which it attributed to the deployment of troops outside synagogues, Jewish schools and other institutions deemed at risk of anti-Semitic attacks. But her report questioned the existence of the “new anti-Semitism” and noted only far-right perpetrators of anti-Semitic crimes, stating that other perpetrators could not be classified one way or another.

Jakubowicz rejected Lafourcade’s call to wait for word from the judiciary on the Halimi case.

“The entire reason for this mobilization,” he said in the radio program, “is that the judiciary is not doing its job.”


Emmanuel Macron

Emmanuel Macron. (photo credit:REUTERS)

Emmanuel Macron’s fledgling party seized a big lead in the French parliamentary election first round on Sunday, projected results polls showed, setting the president on course for a massive majority to push through his pro-business reforms.

The results, if confirmed, are another blow to the country’s mainstream Socialist and conservative parties already reeling from Macron’s election in May, which blew apart the left-right divide that has shaped French politics for the past century.

Pollsters said well over 30 percent of those who voted had picked Macron’s party in the first round, a result which they said could deliver him as much as three quarters of lower house seats when the second round results come in next week.

Macron professes to be neither right nor left. His one-year-old Republic on the Move (LREM) party fielded more than 400 candidates, bringing together seasoned veterans and political novices including a former bullfighter, fighter pilot and ex-armed police commander.

“It’s a renewal of the political class,” said Jose Jeffrey, a health ministry administrator who voted LREM. “I’ve known people who have been MPs for 40 years.”

At the close of voting, pollster Elabe projected Macron’s Republic on the Move and its center-right Modem ally would win 32.6 percent of the first round vote.

Trailing behind, the conservative party The Republicans and their allies were forecast securing 20.9 percent support; the far-right National Front 13.1 percent; and the Socialist Party and a grouping of left-wing parties 9 percent.

Elabe projected this would translate in the second round into a massive 415-445 seats for LREM-Modem. The Republicans would become the largest opposition force with 80-100 seats, Elabe projected, with the National Front seen winning 1 to four seats and the Socialist Party and other leftists 30-40 seats.

Other polls predicted similar outcomes – results that would give France’s youngest leader since Napoleon a powerful mandate with which to make good on his campaign pledges to revive France’s fortunes by cleaning up politics and easing regulations that investors say hobble the euro zone’s No.2 economy.

Turnout was low, interior ministry data showed.

Macron trolls Trump with ‘make planet great again’ site



PARIS, France — French President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday launched a website aimed at attracting researchers, entrepreneurs and others to France to pursue efforts to combat climate change.

The 39-year-old, who said last week that US President Donald Trump had made an historic error by abandoning the Paris climate accord, used a cheeky twist of Trump’s campaign slogan for the site’s name: http://www.makeourplanetgreatagain.fr.

“The planet needs your innovative skills. So, are you IN to change (literally!) our daily lives and make our planet great again?” it asked, under the video clip Macron made last week, in English, in response to Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris deal.

Clicking through, users are asked to choose if they are researchers, business people, teachers, students or others, and which country they come from, and are able to fill in their details with a promise they will be contacted within three days.

“You are the new actors of this fight. Your commitment can inspire many others,” it said, asking them to share their stories on Twitter.

“This is the only way we can spread the word: Something is happening. Our planet is about to be great again.”

World leaders mostly reacted with anger and defiance after Trump announced that the United States, the world’s second biggest carbon emitter, was quitting the deal hammered out in 2015 in the French capital.

Led by Macron and Germany’s Angela Merkel, they branded Trump’s decision as misguided and vowed to defend an accord they portrayed as crucial for the future of the planet.

Leading greenhouse gas emitter China promised to uphold the pact while European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker said there could be “no backsliding” on the deal.