An apparent terrorist attack in Paris could prove a boon to French far-right candidate Marine Le Pen, President Donald Trump said in an interview Friday.
Trump told the Associated Press that Le Pen, who's seeking the French presidency as the candidate of the arch-conservative National Front party, will "probably" benefit from Thursday's shooting on the Champs-Élysées that left a police officer dead and two others wounded.
"Trump says he is not explicitly endorsing Le Pen," according to the AP, but by chiming in on the issue, he is nevertheless making a statement. The attack, he told the outlet, may help Le Pen because within the French presidential field, she is "strongest on borders, and she's the strongest on what's been going on in France."
Following the Paris attack, Le Pen called for the expulsion of foreign nationals on France's terror watchlist and a clampdown on the country's borders.
Le Pen and Trump share what the Washington Post characterized as "a populist, right-wing worldview, skeptical of international norms with strong anti-immigration and anti-refugee sentiment." Their brand of politics is reflective of the anti-immigrant sentiment that spurred last year's Brexit vote to leave the European Union — a campaign led in part by Nigel Farage, the former leader of the U.K. Independence Party and a Trump booster.
It's not every day that a sitting U.S. president openly opines on the political prospects of candidates in foreign elections, although the U.S. by historical account has a long track record of attempting to quietly influence their outcomes.
Even implied support for Le Pen has raised flags among Trump critics who have condemned her rhetoric as xenophobic and insular, and who have said she conflates Islam as a whole with radicalism and terror.
The latest polling shows her in a tight battle with centrist Emmanuel Macron, with first-round voting to begin Sunday.
Le Pen set tongues wagging when she stopped by Trump Tower in New York City just days before Trump's inauguration, although a spokesman said she was in town for a private visit.
Le Pen, daughter of French ultranationalist Jean-Marie Le Pen, sipped coffee at a basement table with several people, including George Lombardi of the group Citizens for Trump, who France 24 called "the point man for Europe's far-right politicians in the U.S."
Earlier this month, Trump distanced himself from the candidate in an interview with the Financial Times, telling the outlet "I don't know her" before conceding, "It's going to be a very interesting election." Now, he seems to have a little more insight.
"Trump says he believes the attack will impact how the French people vote in Sunday's first round of voting in the presidential election," the AP reported. "He says he's not worried about emboldening terrorists by saying an attack can have an impact on a democratic election."