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US President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump arrive back at the White House yesterday. Pool/ABACA/ABACA/PA Images
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Trump didn't attend event honouring war dead as he 'didn't want to disrupt traffic in Paris'

The US President was criticised for not attending the event on Saturday.

FOLLOWING CRITICISM FOR not attending an event honouring military dead, the White House has said President Donald Trump didn’t want to disrupt Paris roadways for a last-minute motorcade to a cemetery in northern France.

Trump had been scheduled to lay a wreath and observe a moment of silence on Saturday at the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery and Memorial, located adjacent to Belleau Wood and about 100km northeast of Paris. The White House cited weather conditions that grounded the president’s helicopter for the cancellation.

In the wake of criticism that Trump didn’t travel by car to the event, press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders issued a statement yesterday that noted the weather and “near-zero visibility” as well as concerns that a motorcade on short notice would have required closing substantial portions of area roadways.

“President Trump did not want to cause that kind of unexpected disruption to the city and its people,” Sanders said. She also said the trip to Aisne-Marne was two and a half hours each way by car.

Instead, Trump spent much of Saturday at the US ambassador’s residence following a meeting and lunch with French President Emmanuel Macron. Trump was in Paris for events to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I.

‘Pathetic’ 

His absence at the ceremony was criticised by many. Nicolas Burns, an American diplomat who served both Republican and Democratic presidents, called the choice “astonishing”.

Nicholas Soames, a Conservative MP and grandson of Sir Winston Churchill, called Trump “pathetic” and “inadequate”, saying he “couldn’t even defy the weather to pay his respects to The Fallen”. 

Attending the cemetery event in Trump’s place were the White House chief of staff, retired Marine General John Kelly; the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Marine General Joe Dunford; and several members of the White House staff. The Battle of Belleau Wood was a critical conflict in the war and a pivotal encounter in Marine Corps history.

The determination to ground Marine One, the president’s helicopter, due to bad weather is made by the Marine Corps and the White House Military Office, which then presents the recommendation to the White House in collaboration with the Secret Service, according to a Secret Service official.

Paris was covered in clouds with drizzling rain through most of Saturday.

Yesterday, Trump attended a scheduled event honouring American war dead at a US cemetery just outside of Paris.

With reporting by Órla Ryan 

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Associated Foreign Press
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