French police patrol Friday at Trocadero plaza with the Eiffel Tower in the background in Paris after a man shot and killed an officer days before France's presidential election.
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Friday said he believes an attack on police officers in Paris this week will help Marine Le Pen, the far-right presidential candidate, in upcoming elections in France.
In an interview with The Associated Press, Mr. Trump said that while he is not explicitly endorsing Ms. Le Pen, the attack played to her strengths.
“She’s the strongest on borders, and she’s the strongest on what’s been going on in France,” Mr. Trump said in the Oval Office interview. “Whoever is the toughest on radical Islamic terrorism, and whoever is the toughest at the borders, will do well in the election.”
U.S. presidents typically avoid weighing in on specific candidates running in overseas elections. But Mr. Trump suggested his opinion was no different from an average observer, saying, “Everybody is making predictions on who is going to win. I’m no different than you.”
Sunday’s vote will be the first round in the French elections, with the top two candidates advancing to a winner-takes-all runoff on May 7. The high-stakes contest is viewed as something of a vote on the future of the European Union, with Ms. Le Pen calling for a referendum on France’s membership in the bloc.
Ms. Le Pen has also echoed some of Mr. Trump’s hard-line rhetoric on immigration, calling for hardening French borders to stanch what she describes as an out-of-control flow of immigrants.
She has spoken of radical Muslims trying to supplant France’s Judeo-Christian heritage and, among other measures, has called for foreigners suspected of extremism to be expelled from the country.
Ms. Le Pen, a 48-year-old mother of three, has distanced herself from her father, National Front party founder Jean-Marie Le Pen, who has been convicted of crimes related to anti-Semitism and mocked the Holocaust as a “detail” of history.
Nevertheless, this month she denied the French state was responsible for the roundup of Jews during World War II, drawing condemnation from other presidential candidates and Israel’s Foreign Ministry.
And her inner circle still includes old friends from her student days in Paris who were members of a radical group known for violence and anti-Semitism.
In a phone call thursday, former President Barack Obama offered best wishes to Emmanuel Macron, a centrist candidate in the French election, although Mr. Obama also stopped short of a full endorsement.
A victory for Mr. Macron would be a vote of confidence in France staying in the EU.
When he was in office, Mr. Obama encouraged Britain not to leave.
Mr. Trump backed Britain’s decision to exit from the EU. Yet during a White House news conference Thursday, the president said he believed in a strong Europe.