Apr 26, 2018

Macron's blunt postgame

Collage: Sarah Grillo/Axios; Photos: Getty Images

French President Emmanuel Macron said at a remarkably candid postgame for a small group of reporters last evening that his State Visit left him convinced President Trump will withdraw from the nuclear deal with Iran, and that the U.S. president wants to create "a series of new Trump's deals."

His big takeaway: "[Y]our president is a dealmaker. You always have to understand the rationale of your counterpoint. He's a dealmaker. So he wants to find a deal and he wants to find a deal under his condition."

  • "I think his experience with North Korea is that when you are very tough, you make the other side [move] and you can try to go to a good deal or a better deal. ... [S]o that's a strategy of an increasing tension."
  • At their White House press conference on Wednesday, Macron said he wanted "to work on a new deal with Iran," and Trump signaled openness.
  • Macron: "Nobody is a magician and will fix the situation overnight."
  • Why it matters: The "Trump's deals" concept — perhaps eventually covering Iran, climate and North Korea — echoes the U.S. president's vow on trade, where he wants to renegotiate big agreements on "America First" terms.

Hours after addressing Congress — and after two dinners, a press conference and several meetings with Trump — Macron sat down with a dozen or so journalists on couches in the George Washington University student center.

  • The 40-year-old president shook hands with each of the columnists and reporters on the way in, as scores of students craned for a glimpse behind barriers outside.
  • Macron began the 45-minute session, all in English, with: "So, I'm yours!"

Macron and Trump had such playful, touchy-feely interactions for cameras that a New York Times headline called it "Le Bromance."

  • But with the reporters, Macron was mostly clinical, saying about the aftermath of a U.S. withdrawal from Iran deal: "I want to be the honest broker of the situation."
  • Macron spoke with a clarity that's rare for an on-the-record meeting with a world leader, where diplomatic fog is more the norm. In that way, Macron was Trump-like: He just said what he thought.

Macron thinks Trump will get out of the Obama-era deal with Iran by a May 12 deadline "for domestic reasons":

  • "That's my view. I don't have any specific information. I'm not an insider. But my view is that there is a big risk he will leave."
  • "I tried to follow which kind of rationality he can respect. ... Your president made very strong statements to say this is an awful agreement, and so on and so on. We pushed. I tried to convince. I did my best."
  • "[W]hen a lot of people say President Trump is not predictable, I think exactly the opposite. He's very predictable. Look at the campaign commitment."
  • "[H]e repeated in his office ... [that it's] the worst deal ever, it's a nightmare, it was a catastrophe and so on."

When a columnist asked if Trump will have a "much more difficult time persuading North Korea to accept a deal if he does not honor the Iran deal," Macron replied:

  • "I agree with that. I used the same argument."

Be smart ... Macron had this take on U.S. vacillation on international agreements, including the Iran deal and the Paris climate accord: "It can work [in] the short term, but it's very insane [in] the mid- to long-term."

  • How it's playing ... WashPost above-the-fold headline: "Macron charms Congress in speech" ... L.A. Times A1 tease: "Macron challenges Trumpism."

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