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President Hollande comes on strong with criticism of Trump

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(Read caption) French President Francois Hollande attends an exhibition at the Elysee Palace to mark the first anniversary of the energy transition law, in July 2016. Mr. Hollande said Tuesday that Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump makes you 'want to retch.'

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The same day Obama delivered the most severe public criticism by a sitting president of the other party’s candidate in more than 60 years, France’s president joined in, saying Donald Trump makes him queasy. 

“Some excesses make your stomach turn, even in the United States,” François Hollande said at a meeting Tuesday with members of the French Presidential Association. “Especially when – as did Donald Trump – he speaks ill of a soldier, of the memory of a soldier,” referring to comments by Mr. Trump about the parents of Captain Humayun Khan, a Muslim-American soldier killed in Iraq in 2004.

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While this isn’t the first time Hollande or other European leaders have disparaged Trump, this latest round of condemnation highlights European fears over how a Trump presidency could affect their relationships with the US, as well as further foreshadow the rise of conservatism within their borders.

The three sources that anonymously confirmed Hollande’s comments to the Associated Press said Hollande intended for the remarks to be off the record. Later in the day, Hollande criticized the Republican presidential candidate in front of reporters.

"If the Americans choose Trump, that will have consequences, because an American election is a world election," he said.

"It could lead to a very strong turn to the right in the world," he added, "or to a correction ... the American campaign shows issues that will be reflected in the French campaign.”  

Hollande's remark may be a reference to the competition he would face from far-right National Front leader Marine Le Pen if he seeks reelection in 2017. Ms. Le Pen has promoted French nationalism and anti-Islamic rhetoric, following in the footsteps of her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, who led the party for decades. 

Previously, in an interview with Les Echos in June, Hollande said that if elected president, Trump would complicate relationships between Europe and the US. Hollande told the French newspaper that Trump’s rhetoric parallels the extreme right in France and Europe, as Europe confronts the migrant crisis, anti-Muslim discrimination, and a rejection of political establishments.

Since then, the French president and the Republican candidate have traded barbs over the safety of France. Trump implied France is to blame for terrorist attacks on its soil because it allowed immigration. Hollande has also strongly rebuked Trump's comment following the Rouen attack on a Catholic priest, when the GOP nominee remarked, "France is no longer France."

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"France will always be France," Hollande said Thursday, according to Les Echos, "because France never gives up, and because France continues to hold ideals, values, principles that make us recognized throughout the world."

"It's when you demean yourself that you no longer look like yourself. That may happen to others, on the other side of the Atlantic," he added. 

Hollande's disparagement of Trump could also tie into the nominee's criticism of the US relationship with the rest of the member nations of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Trump has continually questioned the US commitment to NATO, to which France also belongs. Less than two weeks ago, he suggested the US should not automatically defend the Baltic states – NATO member countries Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania – if Russia invades.

Other NATO allies have also balked at a Trump presidency.

Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi favors Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, he told CNBC on Monday.  

"I think it is obvious for me and for a lot of us to prefer Hillary Clinton as commander-in-chief, because with her, there is a woman able to know every dossier, able to have a history and a future with all the partners," Mr. Renzi said.

Trump has also openly criticized the refugee policy of German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Germany accepted more than one million refugees in 2015, making it the most open country in Europe for asylum seekers. Trump said the policy was “insane” and the country has been “totally destabilized now.”

On Tuesday, Hollande told reporters he was hearing "hurtful, humiliating comments" during the US election campaigns. Politicians "should be respected when they are respectable," he said. 

This report contains material from the Associated Press and Reuters.