Trump condemned for missing Armistice ceremony at US cemetery because of ‘poor weather’

Former US secretary of state and Sir Winton Churchill’s grandson condemn president as comparisons made with Obama's 2009 visit to cemetery 

Emma Snaith
Sunday 11 November 2018 14:54 GMT
President Trump and first lady arrive in France

John Kerry, the former US secretary of state, and Sir Winton Churchill’s grandson led the criticism of Donald Trump after he cancelled a visit to a First World War cemetery because of “poor weather”.

The US president was supposed lay a wreath at the Aisne-Marne American cemetery in Belleau, but the White House claimed that heavy rain prevented him from arriving via helicopter to the site around an hour’s drive away from the French capital, where he was meeting with Emmanuel Macron.

The 1918 battle looms large in the history of the US Marine Corps in which the Americans and French repelled German forces. More than 1,800 Americans died there.

Mr Kerry criticised the president’s decision on Twitter, saying that the weather “shouldn’t have stopped an American President”.

“President @realDonaldTrump a no-show because of raindrops?” he wrote. “Those veterans the president didn’t bother to honor fought in the rain, in the mud, in the snow – & many died in trenches for the cause of freedom.”

Nicolas Soames, a grandson of Sir Winston Churchill and Conservative MP for Mid Sussex, also condemned President Trump for pulling out of the visit.

“They died with their face to the foe and that pathetic inadequate @realDonaldTrump couldn’t even defy the weather to pay his respects to The Fallen,” he wrote on Twitter.

Some commentators also pointed out that the Aisne Marne American cemetery, where nearly 2,300 US soldiers are buried, is only 50 miles from Paris.

The cemetery is at the site of a 1918 battle in which the Americans and French repelled German forces.

Many also drew comparisons between Mr Trump’s cancelled trip and former president Barack Obama’s visit to the site in 2009, when he walked in the rain among the graves of US casualties.

Ben Rhodes, a former senior advisor to Barack Obama, said that the White House’s excuse about “logistical difficulties caused by the weather” did not make sense.

“I helped plan all of President Obama’s trips for eight years,” he wrote on Twitter. “There is always a rain option. Always.”

David Frum, a former speech writer for President George W Bush, tweeted that Mr Trump had “shirked on grounds of weather the job of honouring those who fought and died in rain and mud”.

He said: “It’s incredible that a president would travel to France for this significant anniversary – and then remain in his hotel room watching TV rather than pay in person his respects to the Americans who gave their lives in France for the victory gained 100 years ago tomorrow,” he wrote.

The weather on the day of Mr Trump’s scheduled visit to the cemetery was reportedly light, steady rain with low cloud. This apparently prevented the presidential helicopter from travelling to the site 55 miles east of Paris.

Instead, the president sent a delegation to the cemetery, which included his chief of staff John Kelly.

Others on social media compared Mr Trump with his predecessor’s efforts in the rain, posting images of Mr Obama speaking during downpours.

Mr Trump is visiting France for a weekend alongside other world leaders to mark 100 years since the Armistice that ended the First World War.

The leaders of France, Germany and Canada managed to travel to various commemorations in France on Saturday.

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President Macron and German chancellor Angela Merkel visited a replica of the train carriage in a forest clearing north of Paris where the Armistice was signed and wrote their names in a guestbook.

Mr Trump is scheduled to visit a different US cemetery near Paris on Sunday.

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