- The Washington Times - Monday, April 23, 2018

President Trump welcomed French President Emmanuel Macron on Monday for the administration’s first state visit, cementing the close alliance between the two countries with a whirlwind of events that include a Marine One helicopter tour of Washington and a private dinner at Mount Vernon.

On the business side of visit, Mr. Trump and Mr. Macron will broach trade and military issues, including the touchy subject of the Iran nuclear deal in which the two men take opposite views.

Mr. Trump wants to scuttle the Obama-era agreement with Iran, and he could move to withdraw the U.S. as soon as next month. Mr. Macron has urged Mr. Trump to reconsider.

“The president has been extremely clear that he thinks it is a bad deal. That certainly hasn’t changed,” said White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

Still, she said the president would listen to arguments for how the deal could be improved to benefit the American people.



In New York City on Monday, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said it’s up to the European signatories of the nuclear deal to convince President Trump not to exit the controversial accord.

“It is either all or nothing,” Mr. Zarif tweeted. “European leaders should encourage Trump not just to stay in the nuclear deal, but more important to begin implementing his part of the bargain in good faith.”

Mr. Zarif’s comments followed vows from other Iranian officials to “shred” the nuclear agreement if Washington withdraws.

On Tuesday night, Mr. Trump and first lady Melania Trump will host the French president and his wife, Bridgette Macron, at his presidency’s first state dinner. The main course will be rack of spring lamb, and the entertainment will be a performance by the Washington National Opera from the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, according to the White House.

“This visit will celebrate the long and enduring friendship between France and the U.S.,” said Mrs. Sanders.

Mr. Trump waited longer than many of his predecessors to host a state visit. He is the first president since Calvin Coolidge in the 1920s to finish his first year in office without one.

Although they appear to be political opposites, Mr. Trump and Mr. Macron made fast friends when they met at a NATO summit. The bond grew stronger when Mr. Macron hosted Mr. Trump in Paris for Bastille Day.

“They are not such an odd couple when you scratch the surface,” said Michael C. Desch, director of the Notre Dame International Security Center.

He referred to Mr. Trump as a Francophile.

“At least in terms of the pomp and circumstance of French governmental ceremonies. Remember that it was at a Bastille Day parade that the president got the idea for a military parade here,” said Mr. Desch. “Also, they share a surprising number of similarities, both personal, both political outsiders and businessmen, to substantive: Syria and the war on ISIS.”

For the state dinner, Mr. Trump broke with tradition by not inviting journalists or any Democratic members of Congress.

He also is hosting a smaller gathering than the White House soirees thrown by his predecessor.

Mr. Trump has about 150 guests on the list. The guests at President Obama’s state dinners numbered in the hundreds, which required a huge tent on the South Lawn because there wasn’t a room large enough inside the White House to accommodate so many people.

Mr. Obama’s first state dinner was for Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and featured vegetarian food. The event was marred by party crashers Michaele and Tareq Salahi, winemakers from Virginia who were angling for a spot on the reality TV show “Real Housewives of D.C.”

The couple’s ability to crash the state dinner, including getting photos with Vice President Joseph R. Biden, prompted a Secret Service security review and led to the resignation of White House social secretary Desiree Rogers.

Mr. Obama and President Clinton held their first state dinners in November of their first year in office. President George W. Bush had his in September of his first year.

In their eight years as president, Mr. Obama and Mr. Bush hosted 13 state dinners. Mr. Clinton threw 28 state dinners.

Mrs. Trump, who is responsible for organizing nearly every detail of the visit and the grand state dinner, has spent months planning events for the Macrons’ three-day visit to the capital.

“The menu will be a showcase of the best of America’s cuisines and traditions, with nuances of French influences prepared by the renowned White House Executive Chef, Christeta Comerford,” the White House said in a statement outlining details of the state visit and dinner.

The first course at the state dinner will be goat cheese gateau, tomato jam, buttermilk biscuit crumbles and young variegated lettuces. The main course includes rack of spring lamb, burnt cipollini soubise and Carolina gold rice jambalaya.

Dessert will be nectarine tart and creme fraiche ice cream.

“The wines were selected to complement the menu and embody the historic friendship between the United States and France, which dates back to the American Revolution,” said the White House.

Mr. Trump does not drink alcohol, but Mr. Macron, who has a reputation for following a strict diet, is known to drink wine for lunch and dinner.

The wines for the state dinner include Domaine Serene Chardonnay Evenstad Reserve from 2015, which is the product of American and French collaboration. The wine was aged in 40 percent French oak barrels for more than 12 months, according to the White House.

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