WASHINGTON — President Trump predicted on Friday that a deadly shooting on the famed Champs-Élysées avenue in Paris would have “a big effect” on French elections that will shape the future of Europe and its relations with the United States. The so-called Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack almost immediately, an unusually speedy reaction ahead of Sunday’s first round of voting.
“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 said on Twitter.
He did not elaborate, but the far-right National Front, led by presidential candidate Marine Le Pen, has tapped into voter resentments about immigrants and the European Union, as well as fears about terrorism. Speaking to reporters on Friday, Le Pen promised to implement a “battle plan against Islamist terrorism” if elected president. Le Pen was spotted at Trump Tower in January, though Trump’s transition team said it was not to meet with the incoming administration.
If, as is almost certainly the case, no one secures an absolute majority in the first round of voting, the top two will go on to a decisive second round set for May 7. Le Pen, who has called the election a clash between “patriots and globalists” and suggested a referendum on France’s European Union membership, is seen as likely to make it to the second round.
Asked whether Trump aimed to endorse any particular candidate in France’s elections, or predict any particular outcome, White House press secretary Sean Spicer told Yahoo News: “His tweet on this matter speaks for itself.”
Trump’s comment came a day after the campaign of centrist frontrunner Emmanuel Macron posted a video of Barack Obama advising him by telephone to campaign relentlessly up until the final hours and wishing him “good luck.” A spokesman for the former president would not say whether Obama knew that the telephone call would be used by Macron in a political ad, but drily noted that the video was “unusual.” In a statement on Thursday, the spokesman, Kevin Lewis, had said that “an endorsement was not the purpose of the call, as President Obama is not making any formal endorsement in advance of the runoff election on Sunday.”
Obama had waded into Britain’s debate about whether or not to vote to leave the European Union, warning that doing so would hurt relations with the United States, only to have British voters endorse Brexit.
The Paris attack occurred as the 11 presidential candidates took part in a primetime televised debate. A gunman, reportedly known to French intelligence services, drew up alongside a police van just a few hundred yards from the Arc de Triomphe monument and opened fire. He killed one officer and wounded two others. A note praising the Islamic State was found near the body, Agence France-Presse reported.
France has suffered a string of high-profile terrorist attacks in recent years, including the…