Sullen and combative after an electoral humbling, President Donald Trump jets Friday to Paris, hoping to use the global stage to restore some standing as he faces a tumultuous political future at home.
The President and first lady are visiting the French capital for a ceremony commemorating 100 years since the end of World War I, a weighty moment for the world to remember the conflict that did not wind up ending all wars.
Officials say the President will use the moment to underscore the essential role the United States played in restoring European peace and security — and continues to play now, despite Trump’s complaints that it costs too much. Like presidents before him, he will use the trip to escape an unpleasant election outcome that could salt the remaining two years of his term with investigations, subpoenas and gridlock.
Foreign policy remains an area Trump has a mostly free hand to do with as he pleases, without requiring signoff from a soon-to-be divided Congress. His predecessors also flew off on foreign trips after midterm drubbings, using the world spotlight as a reminder of their relevance and stature.
Trump has been scrambling since Democrats won control of the House on Tuesday to distract from the results and paint forward momentum. The power shuffle in Washington swept out Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who was asked to resign on Wednesday. Battles with the media and an executive action on immigration followed.
Air Force One, however, is an ultimate refuge, able to place literal miles between the President and the bad news.
The President confirmed his attendance at the centenary event after determining in August that the $90 million price tag for the military parade he had commissioned in Washington was too steep. He said then that he would “go to the Paris parade” instead.
Trump had originally ordered his own military parade after being wowed by a Bastille Day procession in Paris last year. The Armistice Day ceremony is expected to be far more solemn, without an overly military bent. It is, after all, intended to observe the end of war, not the practice of it.
During his trip, Trump will visit two burial grounds near Paris set aside for some of the roughly 117,000 American military personnel who died in World War I. On Sunday — Veterans Day in the United States — he’ll deliver remarks from Suresnes, the American cemetery perched on the side of Mont Valérien with a view of the Paris skyline.