While paying tribute to veterans, the president said little about the institutions built after World War II that are fraying under populist movements.
COLLEVILLE-SUR-MER, France — Standing on a sun-drenched bluff above the Normandy beaches, where 10,000 soldiers sacrificed themselves to a savage fusillade of gunfire and opened the way for Europe’s liberation in 1944, President Trump declared on Thursday, “We are gathered here on freedom’s altar.”
Seventy-five years after the D-Day invasion, the president, who has called into question America’s allies around the world — including those whom Americans fought alongside in Normandy — pledged his fidelity to friendships “forged in the heat of battle, tested in the trials of war, and proven in the blessings of peace.”
It was Mr. Trump’s only reference to the importance of the Atlantic alliance, in a speech that paid rich tribute to the service of D-Day veterans. Sixty of them were seated behind him in a semicircular colonnade that looked out over the white stone grave markers of their fallen comrades, and to Omaha Beach beyond it.
Speaking gravely, with few of the ad-libs that usually pepper his speeches, Mr. Trump recounted individual stories of heroism and suffering, often in graphic terms, from that June morning. The veterans of D-Day, he said, not only had vanquished Nazi tyranny but also built the American century, defeating Communism, securing civil rights, pioneering scientific discoveries, and putting a man on the moon.
“To the men who sit behind me and to the boys who rest in the field before me,” Mr. Trump said, “your example will never, ever grow old, your legend will never tire, your spirit — brave, unyielding and true — will never die.”
There was a lingering incongruity to Mr. Trump’s words: a president who has denigrated the European Union and accused NATO of shaking down American taxpayers paying homage to an allied military campaign that was perhaps the greatest single demonstration of America’s commitment to a free and peaceful Europe.
Mr. Trump also brought domestic politics and personal feuds on to the hallowed ground of the cemetery. With the white grave markers visible behind him, the president gave an interview to Fox News in which he labeled Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel who investigated his campaign’s ties to Russia, a “fool,” and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a “disaster.”
The president said little about how he views America’s role in the world or its relationship to the Europe of today, in which the multilateral institutions built by the United States and its allies after World War II to prevent future wars are fraying under populist insurgencies from Britain to Poland.
It is a movement that Mr. Trump has led at home and embraced abroad — and it was on vivid display during his weeklong trip to Europe. In London, Mr. Trump met with the hard-line pro-Brexit leader, Nigel Farage, and dangled the prospect of a lucrative trade deal with Britain if it cut ties to the European Union.

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