Donald Trump did not want to disrupt Paris roads with a last-minute motorcade to a cemetery in northern France, the White House has said.
The president has been stung by criticism for not attending an event honouring US military.
Mr Trump had been scheduled to lay a wreath and observe a moment of silence on Saturday at the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery and Memorial, located adjacent to Belleau Wood and about 60 miles north-east of Paris.
The White House cited weather conditions that grounded the president’s helicopter for the cancellation.
Mr Trump´s car seen at the Elysee Palace in Paris (AP/Jacquelyn Martin)
In the wake of criticism that Mr Trump did not travel by car to the event, press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders issued a statement on Sunday that noted the weather and “near-zero visibility”.
It also referred to concerns that a motorcade on short notice would have required closing substantial portions of roads on the way.
“President Trump did not want to cause that kind of unexpected disruption to the city and its people,” Ms Sanders said.
She also said the trip to Aisne-Marne was two hours 30 minutes each way by car.
Instead, Mr Trump spent much of Saturday at the US ambassador’s residence following a meeting and lunch with French President Emmanuel Macron.
Mr Trump was in Paris for events to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War.
Attending the cemetery event in Mr Trump’s place were the White House chief of staff, retired Marine General John Kelly; the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Marine General Joe Dunford; and several members of the White House staff.
The Battle of Belleau Wood was a critical conflict in the war and a pivotal encounter in Marine Corps history.
The determination to ground Marine One, the president’s helicopter, due to bad weather is made by the Marine Corps and the White House Military Office, which then presents the recommendation to the White House in collaboration with the Secret Service, according to a Secret Service official.
Paris was covered in clouds with drizzling rain through most of Saturday.
On Sunday, Mr Trump attended a scheduled event honouring American war dead at a US cemetery just outside of Paris.