A French political advisor has revealed the first phone conversation between freshly elected Donald Trump and then French President Francois Hollande. And it was très drôle, according to the French side.
In his new book, entitled Politics is a combat sport (La Politique est un sport de combat) former secretary of press relations Gaspard Gantzer reflects on his time in the Elysee Palace.
In a chapter focusing on the events of November 2016, Gantzer recalls the first telephone call between Donald Trump - elected three days earlier - and Francois Hollande, then in his last few months in office.
Gantzer recalls Hollande, surrounded by some of his advisors, waited with trepidation for the call from the controversial new US president. But what the former advisor describes as a "dreaded moment," quickly turns into a surprisingly warm and amusing parley - at least for the French.
According to Gantzer, Trump started to gush and did not stop: He starts by love-bombing the French head of state: "You are a great President, a great leader, a great man."
He continues until the praise dial hits 11: "I love France, I love French people, I love your country, I love Paris, I love your wine..." barely pausing for breath, he declares: "I love your women, I love your wife, I love you." (Hollande was not married then and is not married now.)
By this point, Trump's tone is so OTT that Hollande and his advisors are all struggling to conceal their laughter and are convinced he's mocking them.
The French president then seeks to get down to the business of international affairs saying they need to discuss Syria, Iraq, fighting terrorism and the Paris agreement on climate change. Trump replies with a generous, albeit vague "Everything you want," and an emphatic "yeahhhh."
The conversation then takes a strange turn - "unrealistic," according to Gantzer - when the President-elect asks Hollande three times if he has any pointers for creating his own government. At one stage, Trump asks him: "You know my country. You know many great Americans. And you are one of the greatest leaders of the world, so let me ask you a question, could you help with recruiting my new staff. I need recommendations."
As Francois Hollande doesn't immediately answer, Trump starts listing a few names, asking for the former president's opinion - Hollande's lips remain sealed.
The call eventually ends on a familiar "Thank you so much, Francois," and for a short moment, it's silence in the room.
All, French leader included, stare at one another flabbergasted. But soon enough, everyone present collapses for several minutes of roars of laughter.
Even President Hollande can't resist the urge to comment: "He's a bit..." He doesn't finish his sentence, but according to Gantzer, whatever Hollande might have been feeling at that moment, his advisors felt the same.