During a Bastille Day press conference on Thursday with President Donald Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron, a male French reporter from BFM-TV tried to bait Macron into attacking Trump over his immigration policies and knock Trump down for previous statements about French terror attacks.
The reporter first questioned Macron, observing that, during a trip to Switzerland promoting the French bid for the 2024 or 2028 Olympic games, “you somehow criticized President Trump's policy without naming him.”
“You said that France’s made a very clear choice to leave his — its border open and not to build walls to protect its people. Do you condemn the Muslim ban and the building of a wall between the United States and Mexico? Regarding Syria, as it was just mentioned by President Trump, is France — does France stand ready to talk directly with Bashar Assad in the negotiations that you mentioned,” he continued.
The journalist then began blasting Trump in English over comments he made during the campaign about the repeated Islamic terror attacks across France:
You were implying at the time that Paris was not safe anymore. You’ve also said that France and Germany are infected by terrorism and “it's their fault because they let people enter territory.” Those are very strong words. Would you repeat them today and do you still believe France is not able to fight terrorism on its own territory? Thank you.
Typically, the President of the journalist’s country answers the question first, but Trump interjected immediately, telling Macron that “[y]ou better let me answer that one first” because “[t]hat's a beauty” even though that wasn’t even from a liberal American journalist.
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Surprisingly, Trump didn’t take the bait, instead praising Macron:
You know what? It's going to be just fine, because you have a great president. You have somebody that's going to run this country right and I would be willing to bet, because I think this is one of great cities, one of the most beautiful cities in the world, and you have a great leader now. You have a great president. You have a tough president. He's not going to be easy on people that are breaking the laws, and people that show this tremendous violence.
Macron didn’t either, discussing the importance of stopping terrorists who threaten innocent people, going as far as to state that there’s “no gap between the French and the American positions.”
The other questions included a female French reporter inquiring about their relationship plus the Paris climate agreement and whether Trump would consider bringing the U.S. back to the accord.
ABC’s Cecilia Vega brought up FBI Director nominee Christopher Wray in the context of the troubling Donald Trump Jr.-Russian lawyer story. Vega attempted to tee Macron up to condemn Trump for not being tough enough on Russia, but Macron told her that he wasn’t interested in interfering with American affairs.
Finally, what was meant to be an American question instead was offered up by a Chinese journalist who was not immediately identifiable. The Washington Post’s David Nakamura later tweeted: “FWIW, I'm told the reporter @Potus called on is Yan Ming of Phoenix TV (Hong Kong) and that he is based in France.”
Here’s the rough transcript of the questions from the presidential news conference from July 13:
Presidential News Conference
July 13, 2017
12:59 p.m. Eastern
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE FRENCH REPORTER: The question, first of all, President Macron, regarding what you said on the occasion of the press conference with Angela Merkel, do you still not hope that President Trump or did you hope President Trump could change his mind regarding the Paris accord and now, President Trump, is it possible for you to come back to the Paris Accord and change your mind? Next, regarding your relations. How would you describe it today? What about the dinner tonight? Is it going to be a dinner between friends?
1:03 p.m. Eastern
CECILIA VEGA [TO TRUMP]: Thank you. Mr. President, your FBI nominee said if someone in a campaign got an e-mail about Russia like the one that your son Don Jr. received that they should alert the FBI rather than accept that meeting. Is he wrong? Also, were you misled by your team in not knowing about this meeting? [TO MACRON] And, Mr. President, thank you very much. You have heard President Trump say that it may have been Russia, it may have been others who interfered with the U.S. election. Is President Trump taking a hard enough line on Russia as you see it? Merci.
1:09 p.m. Eastern
UNIDENTIFIED BFM REPORTER [TO MACRON]: A question to President Macron. You went to Lausanne in order to support Paris bid for the Olympic Games and on this occasion, you somehow criticized President Trump's policy without naming him. You said that France’s made a very clear choice to leave his — its border open and not to build walls to protect its people. Do you condemn the Muslim ban and the building of a wall between the United States and Mexico? Regarding Syria, as it was just mentioned by President Trump, is France — does France stand ready to talk directly with Bashar Assad in the negotiations that you mentioned? [TO TRUMP] You have mentioned a friend, Jim. We told you that Paris is no longer Paris. You were implying at the time that Paris was not safe anymore. You’ve also said that France and Germany are infected by terrorism and “it's their fault because they let people enter territory.” Those are very strong words. Would you repeat them today and do you still believe France is not able to fight terrorism on its own territory? Thank you.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: You better let me answer that one first. That's a beauty. He's the one that asked the question. That wasn't even one of my picks.
1:14 p.m. Eastern
PHOENIX TV’s YAN MING: For both presidents. Mr. Macron you had your first meeting with the Chinese president during the G-20 summit. What will France do? How will France cooperate with the areas with China? And what do you think personally Mr. Xi Jinping? [TO TRUMP] Mr. President, you met with the Chinese president during the G-20 summit. What — how do you want to continue to work with China and what do you personally think about Xi Jinping? Thank you very much.