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POLITICO

‘King of the world’ Donald Trump to ditch Washington for Paris after midterms

  • Trump to travel to Paris for the Armistice Day 100th anniversary
  • Foreign policy has often been a refuge for presidents dealing with scandal or a hostile Congress
PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 06 November, 2018, 1:30pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 06 November, 2018, 1:30pm

This story is published in a content partnership with POLITICO. It was originally reported by Nancy Cook on politico.com on November, 5 2018.

Even if the Democrats take back the House in this week’s midterm elections, US President Donald Trump will still have Paris.

Just three days after Tuesday’s vote, Trump will skip town and fly to France for a military celebration marking the 100th anniversary of the end of the first world war.

He’ll be joined by his top national security officials, along with first lady Melania Trump, for a weekend getaway that could also be an escape from bruising election results.

It will also be a chance for Trump to refocus on foreign policy after a midterm campaign mostly focused on domestic issues.

Trump may meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin, who will also attend the celebration at Paris’s Arc de Triomphe.

French President Emmanuel Macron will likely want to discuss fresh US sanctions Trump has slapped on Iran which Paris and other Western European allies strongly oppose.

Two weeks after his return, Trump will head abroad again for a G20 summit in Buenos Aires, where he plans to talk with China’s leader Xi Jinping amid a burgeoning US-China trade war that has rattled global markets.

Foreign policy experts predict he’ll use his bully pulpit to shift the conversation to foreign policy and national security, especially if Republicans lose the House as many Republicans expect and suffer loses at the state level.

This will give the chance to remind the world he’s commander-in-chief regardless of any election results.

Trump to host dinner with Xi at G20 summit, but will there be a deal?

”He’ll blame Paul Ryan, congratulate Mitch McConnell, and get on an aeroplane [to Paris] and still say: ‘I’m king of the world’. Of course, elections being so volatile, if he loses both houses, his ability to lead on the world stage will be vastly circumscribed,” said Wendy Sherman, a former senior State Department official under President Barack Obama.

Foreign policy has often been a refuge for presidents dealing with scandal or a hostile Congress. Presidents have wide authority to direct diplomacy and the military without Congressional approval. Should Democrats win the House, quashing hopes for new Republican legislation, Trump could put more energy into projects like nuclear talks with North Korea and his “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran.

First will come a reunion with Macron, last seen embracing Trump personally during an April visit to the White House before a speech to Congress denouncing Trump-style politics.

Experts predict that Trump and Macron will discuss trade and tariffs, climate change, immigration, and relations with Russia.

Macron will also likely share his frustration over Trump’s clampdown on Iran, which France fears could lead Tehran to abandon the 2015 Iran nuclear deal in which Paris played a key negotiating role.

Already European allies are trying to circumvent the administration’s new oil sanctions on Iran.

On Friday, top officials from France, the European Union, Germany, and the UK condemned these new sanctions in a joint statement for failing to deliver results in the same way as the nuclear deal, negotiated under Obama.

Trump arrives in Europe as the continent struggles with its own massive political shifts – from German chancellor Angela Merkel’s decision to step down in 2021 to a March deadline for Great Britain’s “Brexit” from the European Union to Macron’s slumping approval ratings.

Angela Merkel’s exit may mean a policy shift for China in Europe

“All of our key partners in Europe are distracted by matters internal to Europe at this point. That is one challenge. But that may suit the president just fine. There will probably be a little less contesting in the areas where he has taken stands opposed to their interests,” said Anthony Blinken, former Deputy Secretary of State and Deputy National Security Adviser under Obama.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders did not respond to a request for comment.

Yet the Paris trip is also the chance for Trump to revel in a pomp-and-circumstance military parade. Trump loved watching the traditional Bastille Day parade in Paris in July 2017, in which thousands of French troops and tanks made their way down the Champs-Élysées.

Trump later told The New York Times in an interview that the celebration was “one of the most beautiful parades I have ever seen” – and he wanted to plan something similar down Pennsylvania Avenue to honour US military veterans – until top officials estimated such an event would cost US$90 million.

He scrapped the idea in a tweet in August, saying he instead looked forward to Paris parade in November.

Administration aides and advisers say Trump derives immense satisfaction from the military trappings of the presidency, such as being surrounded by uniformed personnel, helicopters, and planes.

A grand Parisian ceremony would also provide Trump a mental break from the flood of potential investigations his White House will face if Democrats win the House.

That could include everything from Democratic efforts to obtain his tax returns to probes into the ethics of Cabinet officials.

Trump’s foreign and trade policies could also come under tough scrutiny.

“If one assumes the House will go Democratic, you will see a lot of activity in the Ways & Means Committee on trade, the budget, and the tariff war. There is bipartisan support for being tough on China, but not bipartisan support for the way the president has gone about it. How we are dealing with China will garner a lot of attention,” Sherman said.

However much Trump might enjoy a foreign getaway after a potentially depressing election, though, he remains deeply unpopular in France and throughout western Europe.

Some Republicans think he should spend more time in the coming months visiting countries – including Poland, Hungary and Italy – that are run by like-minded populists.

“The president’s friends are really in Southern and Central Europe. Those are the places for America to move the ball,” said James Carafano, a former Trump transition official and top foreign policy scholar at the Heritage Foundation.

“Honestly, Europeans are not going to change what they think about Trump,” he added.

“If president wanted to move the ball forward, he should be in Warsaw and Budapest, not Paris.”

https://www.politico.com/story/2018/11/05/trump-paris-trip-2018-elections-midterms-960749