In an interview with the Associated Press, President Donald Trump said that he believes the Paris attack that left one police officer dead and two others wounded will "probably help" far-right National Front candidate Marine Le Pen in France's upcoming presidential election.
Trump stopped short of explicitly endorsing Le Pen, but argued that the Paris attack will bolster her candidacy since she's the "strongest on borders, and she's the strongest on what's been going on in France."
During a briefing with reporters held off-camera, press secretary Sean Spicer said Trump did not have a favored candidate in the French election.
"The people of France will not take much more of this," he added.
Another terrorist attack in Paris. The people of France will not take much more of this. Will have a big effect on presidential election!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 21, 2017
ISIS claimed that the attacker, who police later identified as 39-year-old French national Karim Cheurfi, as "one of the fighters for the Islamic State."
A terrorism investigation into the attack had been opened, according to the Paris prosecutor's office. French President François Hollande said that the leads so far indicate the attack was of a "terrorist nature."
Trump offered condolences to France and called the attack "a terrible thing" during a joint news conference Thursday with the Italian prime minister at the White House.
"It is a very, very terrible thing that's going on in the world today but it looks like another terrorist attack," Trump said Thursday afternoon before ISIS later claimed responsibility.
"What can you say? Just never ends," Trump said. "We have to be strong and we have to be vigilant, and I have been saying it for a long time."
Trump had previously commented briefly on the presidential race in an interview with the Financial Times early this month. Le Pen has been caricatured as the French equivalent of Trump both because of her nationalist positions and perceived underdog status in the race.
"I don’t know what is going to happen," Trump said. "I know that some outside distractions have taken place which have changed that race."
Trump did not elaborate on what he meant by "outside distractions."
During the campaign, Trump notably seized on terror attacks as evidence that his warnings about the dangers of “radical Islamic terrorism” were validated.
After the 2015 San Bernardino, California, attack, Trump announced a proposed "complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States," a statement that has since haunted his administration as it attempted to institute a ban on immigration from several Muslim-majority countries.