Stung by criticism for not attending an event honoring US military dead, the White House says President Trump didn't want to disrupt Paris roadways for a last-minute motorcade to a cemetery in northern France. Trump had been scheduled to lay a wreath and observe a moment of silence Saturday at the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery and Memorial, located adjacent to Belleau Wood, about 60 miles northeast of Paris. The White House cited weather conditions that grounded the president's helicopter for the cancellation. In the wake of criticism that Trump didn't travel by car to the event, press secretary Sarah Sanders issued a statement Sunday that noted the weather and "near-zero visibility" as well as concerns that a motorcade on short notice would have required closing substantial portions of area roadways.
"President Trump did not want to cause that kind of unexpected disruption to the city and its people," Sanders said. She also said the trip to Aisne-Marne was 2.5 hours each way by car. Instead, Trump spent much of Saturday at the US ambassador's residence. Trump was in Paris for events to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I. Attending the cemetery event in Trump's place were the White House chief of staff, retired Marine Gen. John Kelly; the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Marine Gen. Joe Dunford; and several members of the White House staff, the AP reports. The Battle of Belleau Wood was a critical conflict in the war and a pivotal encounter in Marine Corps history. (A topless protester rushed Trump's motorcade on Sunday.)