PARIS — Colorful pageantry that is a French hallmark greeted President Trump Thursday, as he began a two-day visit to discuss policy and mark Bastille Day with counterpart Emmanuel Macron.
Trump arrived at Élysée Palace for talks with Macron after visiting Les Invalides, the military museum that is home to Napoleon’s tomb. At least two dozen horses were at the scene and a band played The Star-Spangled Banner as the two presidents walked across a cobblestone courtyard, trailed by a soldier in dress uniform and carrying a sword.
The two men paused at the end of the courtyard, where Macron put his hand on Trump's back and pointed up at a columned facade. Trump and Macron are to dine later at the Eiffel Tower.
"Melania and I were thrilled to join the dedicated men and women of the @USEmbassyFrance, members of the U.S. Military and their families," Trump tweeted with a video before arriving at Les Invalides. He was scheduled to attend a luncheon with U.S. military leaders.
Trump and Macron will hold a joint news conference — likely the first time that reporters will be able to ask Trump about the latest developments in the investigation of possible collusion between his campaign and Russians.
Trump tweeted video of himself and first lady Melania disembarking Air Force One at the Orly airport south of the French capital.
The first lady then visited Necker-Enfants Malades Hospital, the country’s largest children’s hospital, and met with senior officials and patients.
Protesters from the Paris Against Trump collective planned to demonstrate at the Place des États-Unis near the Arc de Triomphe and where the U.S. Embassy used to be located.
Trump and Macron, who are expected to discuss the fight against terrorism and Syria civil war, have had an up-and-down relationship. Many other European leaders are sure to be following the visit for signs of strain or renewed cooperation.
Trump will view Friday's Bastille Day parade on the Champs-Élysées, which will include American soldiers marching alongside their French counterparts to mark the 100th anniversary of the United States' entry into World War I.
Analysts say inviting Trump to take part in such a high-profile and symbolic occasion is a savvy move by Macron.
"I think it's a very, very clever idea," said Joachim-Fritz Vannahme, director of European Policy at the Bertelsmann Foundation in Gütersloh, Germany.
"I think the best way to get Trump out of his populist campaign mode is really to talk to him — and Macron now has the possibility to set the tone in quite a charming way."
"Macron's idea is to say please come along and let's talk, even if the outcome isn't as we both expect," he added.
Two months after Macron's election, he has set himself up as a global anti-Trump. He has heralded the kinds of multilateral organizations Trump has shied away from and all but mocked the "America First" president over issues like climate change with his pledge to "make the planet great again."
Trump, meanwhile, reportedly told aides he didn't like being "lectured to" by the 39-year-old French president. And yet the 71-year-old U.S. president quickly accepted Macron's invitation.
Trump is deeply unpopular in France, not least because of statements deemed insulting to the country. In February in a speech to U.S. conservatives about the importance of border security, Trump said a friend named Jim told him: "Paris? I don't go there anymore. Paris is no longer Paris."
A poll released in May by Suffolk University found 82% of French people view Trump unfavorably, a stronger disapproval rating than Russia's Vladimir Putin and China’s Xi Jinping.
An opinion poll this week by French broadcaster BFMTV showed that 59% of the French supported the decision to invite Trump.
Bastille Day, which falls on July 14, is France’s equivalent of July Fourth and marks the storming of the Bastille fortress that held political prisoners in 1789, which led to the French Revolution.
Trump's visit falls on the first anniversary of the terrorist attack in Nice, in southern France, when an Islamist militant drove a truck into a crowd celebrating Bastille Day, killing 86 people and injuring hundreds.
Benjamin Davier, 27, a hotel manager in Nice, said Trump shouldn't have been invited to France.
“Donald Trump doesn’t represent ‘good’ America, in my view, and given his personality, he’s not the best representative we should have on July 14 to celebrate the strong relationship between France and the U.S.," he said. "Americans deserve better."
Last week, Trump and Macron both attended the G-20 summit in Hamburg.
Onyanga-Omara reported from London; Jackson from Washington.
Contributing: Patrick Costello in Berlin, Elena Berton in Nice, the Associated Press