U.S. President Donald Trump is attracting criticism after he cancelled a trip to a cemetery for American war dead near Paris — due to rainy weather.
Trump had been scheduled to take part in a wreath-laying ceremony at the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery and observe a moment of silence at the site.
The site marks the 1918 Battle of Belleau Wood, in which some 1,800 American soldiers perished over a three-week period while fighting alongside French troops to repel German forces.
“The President and First Lady’s trip to Ainse-Marne American Cemetery and Memorial has been canceled due to scheduling and logistical difficulties caused by the weather,” the White House said in a statement.
White House chief of staff Gen. John Kelly and chairman of the joint chiefs of staff Gen. Joe Dunford attended on Trump’s behalf.
It wasn’t clear what Trump did with his time instead of visiting the cemetery, although he did send a tweet around that time wishing a “Happy 243rd Birthday” to the U.S. Marine Corps.
A few hours later, he issued a tweet hailing his “productive meetings” with world leaders, and another one assailing Florida Democrats for “trying to steal” two elections — a likely reference to the state’s Senate and gubernatorial elections that are headed for a recount.
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Bloomberg reported that Trump had been set to travel to Aisne-Marne by helicopter, and that once that plan was nixed due to the rain, the journey to the cemetery — located less than 90 kilometres from downtown Paris — was deemed too logistically challenging to scramble together a motorcade for.
However, the wet weather didn’t stop Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron from showing up for their Remembrance Day commitments in and around Paris, prompting criticism of Trump.
Nicholas Soames, a U.K. Conservative Party MP and grandson of former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, took Trump to task for what he called the “pathetic” decision to cancel the planned visit.
Ben Rhodes, a former White House staffer who helped plan Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama’s state visits, tweeted that officials always set up a “rain option”, suggesting that Trump could’ve made the journey if he wanted to.
David Frum, a former speechwriter for former president George W. Bush, tweeted that a presidential motorcade could have made the journey from Trump’s hotel to the cemetery in an hour.
Democratic Rep. Don Beyer of Virginia tweeted, “Just imagine if President Obama sat out a Veterans Day ceremony because of the rain…”
Kelly Magsamen, who served as a high-ranking official in the Pentagon’s Asian affairs division, chided Trump for his “real low energy” attitude.
She also shared a video of Trudeau speaking in pouring weather during an August 2017 commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the Dieppe raid during the Second World War.
VoteVets.org, a political action committee set up by veterans of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, slammed Trump for staying in his hotel “because of some rain.”
The cancellation of the cemetery visit means Trump’s next engagement will be to attend a dinner hosted by Macron on Saturday evening.
He is scheduled to visit the Suresnes American Cemetery and Memorial in Paris on Sunday.