When the far-right French presidential candidate was first spotted sipping a cup of joe at the president-elect’s New York headquarters, some suspected that a meeting of the (xenophobic) minds might be afoot. But Donald Trump’s aides told the press that there was no meeting between the two right-wing nationalists.
“No meetings. It’s a public building,” incoming White House press secretary Sean Spicer informed reporters gathered in the building’s lobby.
One reason Le Pen may have selected this particular public building to get her caffeine fix: George “Guido” Lombardi — Trump’s “self-professed contact to Europe’s far-right parties” — lives on the 62nd floor.
In December, Politico ran a feature on Lombardi’s various efforts to put Trump in contact with his ideological cousins abroad — including Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, members of Austria’s Freedom Party, and Le Pen, with whom Lombardi met in Trump Tower Thursday.
In May of last year, Lombardi tried to broker a meeting between Trump and Le Pen’s parliamentary adviser, Ludovic de Danne, along with several other Eurosceptic politicians at the Conservative Political Action Conference, but the Donald didn’t show.
Lombardi reassembled the same group for an election night party in Trump Tower, but the Secret Service wouldn’t let the building’s namesake greet the guests because they hadn’t scoped the room — or so Lombardi told Politico.
While Trump has yet to make time for Le Pen or her advisers, he has grown close with British Eurosceptic Nigel Farage, and has offered nothing but praise for the former United Kingdom Independence Party leader’s brand of xenophobic nationalism.
It is not clear whether Trump has any significant interest in influencing the political direction of America’s European allies. But his chief White House strategist sure does. Steve Bannon has expressed his desire to see Breitbart News (which he ran until recently) expand its reach in Europe, thereby offering a platform to an international right-wing populist movement. As the Daily Beast reported in November:
Bannon’s support for European far-right parties runs far deeper than his interest in Marion Maréchal-Le Pen or the National Front. He brags about his international Breitbart operation as “the platform” for the American alt-right, and has for years been thinking globally, with an affinity for the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP), Alternative for Germany (AfD), and the Party for Freedom Party (PVV) in the Netherlands, all of which have earned glowing coverage on the pages of Breitbart
…Breitbart, which currently has operations in London and Jerusalem, certainly has plans to expand in France and Germany with new bureaus to cultivate and promote the populist-nationalist lines there.“He has long wanted to work with all of those parties, but that was only in promoting them with Breitbart,” a source close to Bannon told The Daily Beast. “Now he has the power of the White House to do it.”
Lombardi, Bannon, Le Pen, and Trump National Security adviser Michael Flynn all share a belief that “Judeo-Christian civilization” is locked in an existential struggle with the Muslim world. Le Pen has suggested that Vladimir Putin is one of the West’s key allies in that struggle, vowing, “If I am president, France would have good relations with Russia.”
A recent poll shows Le Pen leading in the first round of the upcoming French elections — but far behind the former conservative prime minister François Fillon in the second-round runoff.