Marine Le Pen’s Visit to New York

It was an undeniably public cup of coffee. When Marine Le Pen, the far-right leader who aspires to the French presidency, was photographed in the Trump Tower cafe, the question was whether she had come to New York for a high-profile meeting with the President-elect Donald J. Trump.

The rumored meeting with Mr. Trump turned out to be just that — a rumor, though speculation persisted on Friday that a meeting could still take place. Her spokesman in France, Alain Vizier, merely said that she was on a “private trip” to the United States.

Hope Hicks, a spokeswoman for Mr. Trump, said again on Friday that Ms. Le Pen did not meet with the president-elect or anyone on his transition team. She did not respond to a question about whether anyone had advance warning of the appearance.

But Ms. Le Pen’s stop on Thursday at Trump Tower wasn’t by chance, and it was not unrelated to Mr. Trump. The night before, she had been honored at a cocktail party in the Trump Tower apartment of a right-leaning political operative with ties to Mr. Trump’s team and to far-right leaders across Europe. And even if no meeting occurred, the spectacle of Ms. Le Pen in Trump Tower ricocheted across the world on social media.

“She did meet people who were eager to meet with her — businessmen, civil servants, people from different parts of the political spectrum,” Denis Franceskin, the United States and Canada director for Ms. Le Pen’s party, the National Front, said in a telephone interview.

“There were people who wanted to meet her, who know her a bit and who want to know what kind of woman she was, what type of person.”

The political operative she went to meet at Trump Tower, George G. Lombardi, is a businessman who has made a career as a liaison between two right-wing Italian political parties — the Northern League and Forza Italia — and like-minded people in the United States. He has also worked with the National Front since 2012, Mr. Franceskin said.
Ms. Le Pen is poised to begin her second run for president of France, after taking over the far-right movement previously run by her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen. A Le Pen victory in the spring election would shake French and European politics as Mr. Trump’s win has shaken the political establishment in America, and she has sought to portray herself and Mr. Trump as part of a global, anti-establishment movement.

In France, there is talk that Ms. Le Pen could be in the United States to raise funds, which could explain Mr. Lombardi’s role.

Mr. Lombardi has photos on one website of himself with a younger Mr. Trump, with Bob Dole, the former Senate majority leader and with former New York Republican Senator Alfonse M. D’Amato. Mr. Lombardi confirmed that on Wednesday night he played host to a cocktail party for Ms. Le Pen in his spacious Trump Tower apartment. While Mr. Lombardi would not identify any of the 40 guests who attended, he described them as “a lot of important people.” Mr. Franceskin, the National Front spokesman, declined to say whether any of Mr. Trump’s team attended the party.

Then on Thursday, Mr. Lombardi said Ms. Le Pen suggested they meet for coffee, which led to her appearance in Trump Tower. Beforehand, Mr. Lombardi said he reached out to Mr. Trump’s team, without naming any names. “Before she came, I informed two or three people that I know, and I said, ‘Listen, I just want you to know Ms. Le Pen is coming here. I just want you to be prepared in case anything happens.’”

He said he was “very clear” that they were not coming to the building to meet with Mr. Trump, nor had Ms. Le Pen requested a meeting. “We wouldn’t come unless we were invited,” he said. “The French are pretty proud people.”

It is unclear exactly what Mr. Lombardi does for the National Front. The party’s treasurer, Wallerand de Saint-Just, said that before the Trump Tower story broke on Thursday, he had not heard of him.