President Trump asked French President Emmanuel Macron if he would like to take back “some nice ISIS fighters” during a tense meeting before reporters.
The two leaders appeared to tangle over the issue as Trump gave a slight jab at his French counterpart for being a great politician and giving “one of the greatest non-answers” to the question during the exchange in London where the NATO summit was being held.
In response to a reporter’s question, Trump indicated that “we have a tremendous amount of ISIS fighters…under lock and key,” noting that most of them captured in Syria are from Europe and “some of the countries are agreeing” to take custody of the imprisoned Islamic State fighters.
“I have not spoken to the president about that — would you like some nice ISIS fighters?” he then asked, turning to Macron seated beside him. “I can give them to you, you can take everyone you want.”
“Let’s be serious,” Macron shot back, contending that most ISIS fighters were from Syria, Iraq, and Iran.
He also called for more of a push against the terrorist group which Trump has essentially said has been defeated, arguing that the European ISIS fighters were a “tiny” part of the problem in the region.
“I think, number one priority, because it’s not yet finished, is to get rid of ISIS and these terrorist groups. This is our number one priority. And it’s not yet done, I’m sorry to say that,” he said, insisting there are still fighters in the region and that his “very first objective” is to “finish the war against ISIS.”
“And don’t make the mistake, your number one problem are not the foreign fighters, this is the ISIS fighters directly,” he added.
“This is why he’s a great politician,” Trump joked as Macron concluded his response.
“Because that’s one of the greatest non-answers I’ve ever heard,” he said, drawing some laughter in the room. “And that’s okay.”
Macron jumped back in to clarify that the U.S. – notably the American press – could portray the situation as the responsibility of European nations, as he called for an end of ambiguity with Turkey about the ISIS fighters and “some of these groups.”
Trump noted that France had “actually taken back some fighters,” and noted the progress made against the terrorist group.
The exchange on the issue between the two men came hours after Trump criticized Macron’s “very, very nasty statement” about the NATO alliance.
“Nobody needs NATO more than France,” Trump said. “It’s a very dangerous statement for them to make. Frankly, the one that benefits the least is the United States. We are helping Europe unite and go against a common foe – may not be a foe – I can’t tell you.”
“It is a very tough statement to make when you have such difficulty in France when you look at what is going on,” Trump continued. “They have had a very rough year. You just can’t go around making statements like that about NATO. It is very disrespectful.”
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