PARIS — As President Trump prepared to travel to the City of Light this week, this question came up: What does Jim think?
Some background: On the campaign trail, Trump would occasionally mention his friend Jim, who used to go to Paris every summer with his wife and family but stopped because “Paris is no longer Paris,” a problem that Trump seemed to blame on crime in the city and an influx of immigrants.
After Trump mentioned Jim at the Conservative Political Action Conference in February — calling him a “very, very substantial guy” — the New Yorker set out to try to find him and questioned all of the numerous Jims in Trump’s life. Jim was not located, and an article about the hunt ended: “Jim, if you’re out there, levez-vous, s’il vous plaît.”
This week, the Associated Press tried to do the same thing and reported: “Whether Jim exists is unclear. Trump has never given his last name. The White House has not responded to a request for comment about who Jim is or whether he will be on the trip.”
Jim quickly became a larger-than-life, yet elusive character in the story of Trump’s journey to Paris — and he even came up during a Thursday afternoon news conference at the Elysee Palace featuring Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron.
“Six months ago, you mentioned a friend, Jim, who told you that Paris is no longer Paris,” a French journalist said in English during a question-and-answer period. “You were implying at the time that Paris was not safe any more. You’ve also said that France and Germany are infected by terrorism and, quote, it’s their fault because they let people enter their territory. Those are very strong words. Would you repeat them today? And do you still believe that France is not able to fight terrorism on its own territory.”
Although it was Macron’s turn to go first in answering, Trump jumped ahead of him.
“You know what?” Trump said. “It’s going to be just fine, because you have a great president. You have somebody that’s going to run this country right, and I would be willing to bet — because I think this is one of the great cities, one of the most beautiful cities in the world — and you have a great leader now, you have a great president. You have a tough president — he’s not going to be easy on people that are breaking the laws and people that show this tremendous violence. So, I really have a feeling that you’re going to have a very, very peaceful and beautiful Paris. And I’m coming back.”
The audience — which included U.S. and French officials in addition to reporters — chuckled.
Trump then leaned into the microphone, looked over at Macron and said: “You better do a good job, please. Otherwise you’re going to make me look very bad.”
Macron smiled and said: “And you’re always welcome.”
As of Thursday evening in Paris, Jim could not be located for comment.