President Donald Trump and Emmanuel Macron enjoyed an unlikely double date with their wives at George Washington’s house as the French president’s visit to the US kicked off on Monday.
The leaders and their spouses hopped on a helicopter bound for Mount Vernon, Washington’s historic riverside home, for a private dinner one night before the leaders sit down for talks on a weighty agenda including security, trade and the Iran nuclear deal.
Macron’s pomp-filled three-day state visit to Washington underscores the importance that both sides attach to the relationship: Macron, who calls Trump often, has emerged as something of a ‘Trump whisperer’ at a time when the American president’s relationships with other European leaders are more strained.
Striking a pose: Melania turns to ruffle her hair while husband Donald and French President Macron stare at opposite directions while French First Lady Brigitte Macron pouts for the cameras
First Lady Melania and President Donald Trump stare straight into the camera while French President Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte look away
Trump, who attaches great importance to the optics of pageantry and ceremony, chose to honor Macron with the first state visit of his administration as he woos the French president.
‘This is a great honor and I think a very important state visit given the moment of our current environment,’ Macron said after his plane landed at a U.S. military base near Washington.
For all their camaraderie, Macron and Trump disagree on some fundamental issues, including the multinational nuclear deal, which is aimed at restricting Iran’s development of nuclear weapons.
Trump, skeptical of the pact’s effectiveness, has been eager to pull out as a May 12 deadline nears.
Macron says he is not satisfied with the situation in Iran and thinks the agreement is imperfect, but he has argued for the U.S. sticking with the deal on the grounds that there is not yet a ‘Plan B.’
The Trumps and Macrons helped plant a tree on the White House grounds together before boarding Trump’s Marine One helicopter for a scenic tour of monuments built in the capital city designed by French-born Pierre L’Enfant as they flew south to Mount Vernon, the first U.S. president’s home along the Potomac River.
President Donald Trump, First Lady Melania Trump, French President Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte Macron pose for a photo in front of Mount Vernon, the home of President George Washington, in Mount Vernon
The young oak is an environmentally friendly gift to the White House from Macron, and one that also bears historical significance. It sprouted at a World War I site in France, the Battle of Belleau Wood, that became part of U.S. Marine Corps lore.
After Trump’s helicopter landed at Mount Vernon, the two presidents, each holding his wife’s hand, walked a short distance and posed for pictures before they boarded golf carts that ferried them to the front door of Washington’s plantation house. The couples were led on a brief outdoor tour before they entered the pale yellow building for dinner of Dover sole, pasta stuffed with lemon ricotta, and chocolate souffle and cherry vanilla ice cream.
Trump declared the dinner ‘really fantastic’ before returning to the White House.
President Donald Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron followed by first lady Melania Trump and French first lady Brigitte Macron walk on the South upon arrival at the White House in Washington, Monday, April 23, 2018. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
He ended his first year in office without receiving a foreign leader on a state visit, the first president in nearly 100 years to fail to do so. He was Macron’s guest last July at the annual Bastille Day military parade in the center of Paris. Macron and his wife also took Trump and America’s first lady on a tour of Napoleon’s tomb and whisked them up in the Eiffel Tower for dinner overlooking the City of Light.
Macron will be welcomed back to the White House on Tuesday with a traditional arrival ceremony featuring nearly 500 members of the U.S. military and a booming 21-gun salute. The state visit also offers Macron his first Oval Office sit-down with Trump and a joint White House news conference. There’s also a State Department lunch hosted by Vice President Mike Pence.
The French president’s White House day will be capped Tuesday night with a state dinner, the highest social tribute a president bestows on an ally and partner.
Melania Trump played an active role in every detail of the visit, said White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders.
President Donald Trump, center, rides in a golf cart with French President Emmanuel Macron, third from right, as they arrive for a visit and private dinner at George Washington’s Mount Vernon estate in Mount Vernon, Va., Monday, April 23, 2018. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
First lady Melania Trump, left, President Donald Trump, second from left, French President Emmanuel Macron, second from right, and his wife Brigitte Macron, right, pose for a photo during a visit and private dinner at George Washington’s Mount Vernon estate in Mount Vernon, Va., Monday, April 23, 2018. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
The first lady settled on a state dinner menu of rack of lamb and nectarine tart, along with after-dinner entertainment provided by the Washington National Opera for about 150 guests. On Monday, she released details of the glitzy affair being planned to dazzle Macron and his wife, Brigitte.
Dinner will be served in the State Dining Room, which will feature more than 2,500 stems of white sweet pea flowers and nearly 1,000 stems of white lilac. Separately, more than 1,200 branches of cherry blossoms will adorn the majestic Cross Hall.
The first lady opted for a cream-and-gold color scheme, and will use a mix of china services from the presidencies of Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.
President Donald Trump with first lady Melania Trump greet visiting French President Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte Macron upon arrival at the White House in Washington, Monday, April 23, 2018. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
State dinner tickets are highly sought after by Washington’s political and business elite. A few of those expected to attend: Christine Lagarde, head of the International Monetary Fund and a former top French government official; House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis.; Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and his wife, Louise Linton; Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., and Mike Pompeo, Trump’s choice to be the next secretary of state.
In a break with tradition, Trump has invited no congressional Democrats or journalists, said a White House official who was not authorized to discuss the arrangements publicly. But some Democrats did make the cut, including Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards, whose office confirmed his attendance
The State Dining Room at the White House is set for the first State Dinner that President Donald Trump will host as president with French President Emmanuel Macron in Washington, Monday, April 23, 2018. The State Dinner will be held on April 24. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)