U.S. President Donald Trump says he believes Thursday’s attack in Paris will “probably help” far-right candidate Marine Le Pen in France’s upcoming election.
In an interview with The Associated Press, Trump says he is not explicitly endorsing Le Pen. But he says he believes she will be helped by the attack that left a Paris police officer dead, because she’s the candidate who is “strongest on borders, and she’s the strongest on what’s been going on in France.”
France’s anti-terrorism prosecutor said Friday the gunman had a note with him defending the Islamic State group.
Trump says he believes the attack will impact how the French people vote in Sunday’s first round of voting in the presidential election. He says he’s not worried about emboldening terrorists by saying an attack can have an impact on a democratic election.
“Another terrorist attack in Paris. The people of France will not take much more of this. Will have a big effect on presidential election!” Trump tweeted early Friday.
On Thursday, an attacker in Paris used an automatic weapon to shoot officers in the centre of the Champs-Elysees. One officer was killed, as was the gunman, and the Islamic State claimed responsibility.
Trump, in a break with his predecessors, has not been shy in casting terror attacks in political terms. In November 2015, he took to Twitter to blame France’s strict control laws for an Islamic State terror attack at multiple sites in Paris and its suburbs that left 137 people dead.
And last year, he tweeted that he would “appreciate the congrats” for being right about the dangers of “radical Islamic terrorism” in the aftermath of the Florida nightclub shooting that left 49 dead. The shooter was a U.S. citizen of Afghan descent.
The outcome of France’s presidential election is being closely watched for signs that Europe is moving toward nationalist candidates who advocate the European Union’s dissolution. The top two candidates from Sunday’s vote in Paris will progress to a winner-takes-all May 7 runoff.
Trump was a supporter of the British decision to exit the European Union and has stated his preference for one-on-one trade and defence agreements with U.S. allies.
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His tweet Friday came as he tried to bolster U.S. support for hard-line proposals on immigration and foreign policy. Trump’s administration is demanding that Congress fund a bigger U.S. border wall with Mexico and is suggesting that his administration could scrap the U.S. nuclear deal with Iran.
This week, Trump met with Italian Premier Paolo Gentiloni. At a joint news conference on Thursday, he said Iran is failing to fulfil the “spirit” of its nuclear deal with world powers and that the 2015 agreement shouldn’t have been signed.
He pointedly stopped sort of telegraphing whether or not the U.S. would remain in the agreement.
“They are not living up to the spirit of the agreement, I can tell you that,” Trump said of the Iranians on Thursday, though he did not mention any specific violations. The administration has certified to Congress that Iran was complying — at least technically — with the terms of the deal, clearing the way for Iran to continue enjoying sanctions relief in the near term.
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Trump has taken an aggressive tone on foreign policy of late, launching missiles into Syria in the wake of a chemical attack and while warning North Korea to abandon its nuclear ambitions. He also said the U.S. is committed to a strong Europe, but he didn’t say directly whether he prefers that the European Union stay intact.
Trump’s wrangling on international issues comes amid debate in the U.S. over his priorities at home ahead of the possibility of a looming government shutdown. He was poised Friday to sign an executive order and memorandum at the Treasury Department on financial regulations. And White House budget director Mick Mulvaney said money for Trump’s border wall must be part of the legislation passed to fund the federal government, along with money to hire more immigration agents.
Trump is approaching his 100th day in office, a benchmark often cited to measure a new administration’s achievements. On Friday, he declared the benchmark as a “ridiculous standard.”
He tweeted, “No matter how much I accomplish during the ridiculous standard of the first 100 days, & it has been a lot (including S.C.), media will kill!”
His statement ran counter to his statement earlier this week that “no administration has accomplished more in the first 90 days.”
Since taking office, Trump has managed to get a Supreme Court justice confirmed and is pursuing tougher regulations on immigration. But his health care bill didn’t come up for a vote in the House, his travel ban was twice blocked in the courts and his West Wing has been plagued by infighting and the resignation of his first national security adviser amid an ongoing investigation into contacts between Trump aides and Russian officials.