The Washington Post

Trump and Macron planted a friendship tree. Now it’s dead.

The oak — from historic Belleau Wood outside Paris — reportedly expired in quarantine, even as relations between the leaders appeared to fray

- BY JAMES MCAULEY james.mcauley@washpost.com

PARIS — The symbolic tree that President Trump and his French counterpar­t, Emmanuel Macron, planted at the White House last year has died, according to French media reports.

The small oak, which came from the historic Belleau Wood east of Paris, where American forces halted a German counteroff­ensive in the waning months of World War I, was a gift from Macron to Trump during his April 2018 state visit.

As Macron wrote on Twitter at the time, the tree “will be a reminder at the White House of these ties that bind us.” Instead, the dead tree can now be seen as a reminder of an amicable relationsh­ip that began as “le bromance” and has since become rather antagonist­ic.

A major turning point in the Macron-Trump relationsh­ip came during the same visit, when the two presidents gathered with their wives on the White House lawn to plant the tree. Macron had flown across the Atlantic to try to persuade Trump not to abandon the Iran nuclear deal, a signature policy achievemen­t of the Obama administra­tion.

The French president, who had won in a landslide the year before and is the youngest head of state in modern French history, clearly believed in his ability to charm.

Compared with other European leaders, notably German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Macron seemed to get along quite well with the mercurial Trump at the time, having delighted him in July 2017 with a massive military parade in Paris that Trump then tried, unsuccessf­ully, to re-create at home.

So the young French president — who already had failed to persuade Trump to stay in the 2015 Paris climate accord — decided to test his luck on Iran.

Trump clearly relished leading along but ultimately stood his ground. In one memorable scene, the U.S. president flicked what appeared to be a piece of dandruff off Macron’s lapel in front of White House photograph­ers, an apparent visible reinforcem­ent of the power dy Macron namic at play.

The death of the tree was first reported in France’s Le Monde newspaper last week, during Trump’s visit to the beaches of Normandy for the 75th anniversar­y of the D-Day invasion.

According to those reports, after it was planted, the tree had to be uprooted and subjected to a normal quarantine period for a plant brought from a foreign country to the United States. But it apparently died during the quarantine period and was never replaced or replanted.

The White House did not immediatel­y respond to a request for comment.

At about the same time the tree was under quarantine, the once close ties between the two men appeared to fray, with the most fraught moment in the relationsh­ip coming in November 2018, seven months after the tree had been planted.

After Macron — on the 100th anniversar­y of the end of World War I — delivered a rousing speech against the evils of nationalis­m, Trump arrived back in Washington and unleashed a tweetstorm against him.

“The problem is that Emmanuel suffers from a very low Approval Rating in France, 26%, and an unemployme­nt rate of almost 10%,” Trump wrote.

“He was just trying to get onto another subject. By the way, there is no country more Nationalis­t than France, very proud people and rightfully so!” he said.

All things considered, though, Trump’s recent D-Day visit seemed to go fairly well in terms of relations with Macron.

 ?? JABIN BOTSFORD/THE WASHINGTON POST ?? President Trump and Melania Trump walk with France’s Emmanuel Macron and his wife, Brigitte, near the friendship oak on the South Lawn of the White House in April 2018. The tree was uprooted and subjected to a normal quarantine for a plant brought into the country.
JABIN BOTSFORD/THE WASHINGTON POST President Trump and Melania Trump walk with France’s Emmanuel Macron and his wife, Brigitte, near the friendship oak on the South Lawn of the White House in April 2018. The tree was uprooted and subjected to a normal quarantine for a plant brought into the country.

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