White House defends Trump cemetery no-show


US President Donald Trump takes part in a ceremony at the American Cemetery of Suresnes, outside ParisImage copyright

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President Trump attended another scheduled visit to a US cemetery outside Paris on Sunday

The White House has defended US President Donald Trump’s decision to miss a memorial event on Saturday after he faced a critical backlash.

Mr Trump, who was in France to mark the centenary of World War One’s end, cancelled a visit to a US military cemetery amid heavy rain.

Bad weather and “near-zero visibility” grounded the presidential helicopter.

Mr Trump did not want to cause extra Paris traffic for a last-minute motorcade, officials said.

“President Trump did not want to cause that kind of unexpected disruption to the city and its people,” press secretary Sarah Sanders said, noting the trip was 60 miles (96km) north-east of Paris.

Mr Trump spent much of Saturday at the US ambassador’s residence, and visited another US cemetery in a Paris suburb on Sunday.

Critics observed how Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had travelled 118 miles outside Paris to attend a ceremony – in the rain – at a cemetery in Vimy.

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Media captionPresident Trump and President Putin were among the leaders at the ceremony in Paris

Notable criticism came from British Defence Minister Tobias Ellwood, who took an apparent swipe at the president on Twitter, saying “rain did not prevent our brave heroes from doing their job”.

His comments followed a scathing rebuke from Sir Nicholas Soames, a grandson of the wartime British leader Sir Winston Churchill.

The MP tweeted that Mr Trump was not fit to represent the US and said that he was a “pathetic inadequate” for not defying the weather “to pay his respects to the fallen”.

The US president also received backlash from Americans, like former diplomat Nicholas Burns, who said it was the leader’s duty to honour their soldiers.

Ben Rhodes, who served as a deputy national security adviser under former US President Barack Obama, also hit back saying weather was not an excuse.

A delegation of senior US officials went in the president’s place to the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery and Memorial, the White House said.

The US president also opted to miss the Paris Peace Forum, which is run by his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron and started on Sunday afternoon.

Last year, foggy weather caused similar security concerns which prevented Mr Trump from visiting the demilitarised zone between North and South Korea.

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