The White House is furiously fighting back against a politically explosive report that the president called U.S. military heroes killed in battle ‘losers’ and ‘suckers’ – and turned down a trip to visit U.S. war dead in France due to the rain.
Fox News, the Washington Post and Associated Press were among the news outlets to all confirm the Atlantic’s reporting on Friday.
Melania Trump on Friday evening became the latest to deny the highly-damaging report, tweeting that it was untrue and brought shame on journalism.
‘TheAtlantic story is not true,’ she said.
Melania Trump on Friday evening denied the Atlantic’s story about her husband
Melania Trump on Friday evening became the latest White House figure to deny the story
‘It has become a very dangerous time when anonymous sources are believed above all else, & no one knows their motivation.
‘This is not journalism – It is activism. And it is a disservice to the people of our great nation.’
Her response came as Fox News independently confirmed all of the details in the Atlantic’s report, with their national security correspondent, Jennifer Griffin, appearing on the network to say her sources had told her it was entirely true.
Griffin said that she was told the president did indeed decide he didn’t want to attend the rainy ceremony commemorating U.S. war dead in France.
‘The president drives a lot,’ Griffin said she was told. ‘The other world leaders drove to the cemeteries. He just didn’t want to go.’
Two former senior officials also confirmed to her that he disparaged war dead.
According to Griffin, one of the former senior Trump administration officials told her: ‘When the President spoke about the Vietnam War, he said, “It was a stupid war. Anyone who went was a sucker”.’
Griffin’s sources confirmed that they heard Trump say he didn’t want ‘wounded guys’ in military parades, adding: ‘Americans don’t like that’.
A senior Defense Department official with firsthand knowledge of events and a senior U.S. Marine Corps officer who was told about Trump’s comments confirmed some of the remarks to The Associated Press, including the 2018 cemetery comments.
The Washington Post also confirmed the Atlantic’s reporting, and noted that Jim Mattis, the former defense secretary, and John Kelly, the former chief of staff, did not respond to requests for comment on Friday.
Other retired Marine generals who have worked with them, including Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr. and Gen. John R. Allen, also declined to comment.
On Friday evening Trump speculated that Kelly could have been the possible source of the report.
Trump did not assert definitively his belief that Kelly was the source of the report – which he also asserted may have come from made-up sources.
But he accused the former top aide of bad mouthing him.
President Donald Trump attacked former White House chief of staff Gen. John Kelly when asked if Kelly could be a source for a blistering Atlantic story that Trump called fallen U.S. troops ‘losers’
Trump furiously denied a report he referred to fallen troops as ‘losers’
‘This man was totally exhausted. He wasn’t even able to function in the last number of months,’ Trump said.
‘He was not able to function. He was sort of a tough guy. By the time he got eaten up in this world, he was unable to function.’
‘I told him: John you’re going to have to go,’ Trump said, describing Kelly’s prolonged departure. ‘And now he goes out and bad-mouths. Now, there are people that are jealous. There are people that are upset that they’re not here anymore. There are people – we’ve done an incredible job, the virus came in, and now w’ere doing an incredible job again,’ Trump said, his thoughts shifting to the pandemic.
‘I don’t know that it was him. I haven’t seen that. I mean I see “anonymous.” But it could have been a guy like a John Kelly – just so you understand,’ Trump said.
Kelly was a key figure who appeared twice in the story, once regarding the 2018 trip to Belleau Wood, and once regarding Trump’s 2017 visit to Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day.
A former senior administration official told the Washington Post that the president frequently made disparaging comments about veterans and soldiers missing in action, referring to them at times as ‘losers.’
In one account, the president reportedly told senior advisers that he didn’t understand why the U.S. government placed such value on finding soldiers missing in action because they had performed poorly and gotten caught and deserved what they got.
Jennifer Griffin, national security correspondent for Fox News, confirmed the Atlantic story
Sources told Fox News that the Atlantic’s report about Trump’s remarks was factually accurate
Former officials within the White House told the news station that the reporting was true
President Donald Trump earlier on Friday repeated his attack on the Atlantic magazine.
‘The Atlantic Magazine is dying, like most magazines, so they make up a fake story in order to gain some relevance,’ Trump tweeted. ‘Story already refuted, but this is what we are up against. Just like the Fake Dossier. You fight and and fight, and then people realize it was a total fraud!’ Trump continued.
Trump ripped the report as he met with the president of Serbia and the prime minister of Kosovo at the White House Friday.
‘It was a terrible thing that somebody could say the kind of things – especially to me, because I’ve done more for the military than almost anybody else,’ Trump fumed. ‘Nobody’s done what I’ve done’ for the military, Trump claimed.
Then he brought up the tell-all book by former national security advisor John Bolton – a book that accuses Trump of giving ‘personal favors to dictators.’
‘I hate to bring up his book, but John Bolton, no friend of mine I mean he didn’t know too much about what he was doing, he didn’t do a good job. But he wrote a book. He talks about this incident and he doesn’t mention it,’ said Trump.
‘There’s nobody that considers the military and especially the people that have given their lives in the military – to me they’re heroes,’ Trump said of Americans who die while serving the country. ‘It’s even hard to believe how they could do it. And I say that. The level of bravery …’ he said.
In addition to the president himself calling the story in the Atlantic fill of ‘lies,’ the White House communications shop has turned to an unlikely source of defense: Bolton, who Trump has ridiculed since his slicing memoir.
‘He is a liar,’ Trump said after Bolton released his tell-all book trashing the administration.
Following publication of the Atlantic story, the White House press shop retweeted an image of Bolton’s book, ‘The Room Where it Happened,’ where Bolton says it was bad weather and the special contingencies of presidential travel that caused the White House to nix a planned cemetery visit by Trump in 2018.
The White House’s furious pushback against a new Atlantic article that reports President Donald Trump called fallen soldiers ‘losers’ included quoting from the tell-all book by former National Security Advisor John Bolton. Trump called Bolton a ‘liar’ after the release of his book
President Trump attacked the Atlantic magazine and called its report ‘fake’
Trump was to have visited the cemetery near Belleau Wood on the 100th anniversary, a cemetery which holds a special place for Marines.
‘The press turned canceling the cemetery visit into a story that Trump was afraid of the rain and took glee in pointing out that other world leaders traveled around during the day,’ Bolton wrote. ‘Of course, none of them were the President of the United States, but the press didn’t understand the rules for US Presidents are different from the rules for 190 other leaders who don’t command the world’s greatest military forces.’
Bolton wrote that Marine One’s crew were saying it was ‘imprudent’ to fly by helicopter due to the weather, and the drive could be 90 minutes each way.
The Atlantic piece takes a much harsher view: ‘Trump rejected the idea of the visit because he feared his hair would become disheveled in the rain, and because he did not believe it important to honor American war dead, according to four people with firsthand knowledge of the discussion that day,’ wrote author Jeffrey Goldberg.
White House deputy communications director Brian Morganstern retweeted the passage from the book, as did White House Communications Director Alyssa Farah.
Farah also called the article ‘offensive & patently false.’
Another White House press official, Judd Deere, blasted out people who contradicted accounts in the article.
‘Anyone else notice that there are now four individuals with first-hand knowledge who are ON THE RECORD denying The Atlantic story? This matches the publications four anonymous sources. Will The Atlantic stand by their false anonymous reporting or listen to those who were there?’
White House officials circulated Bolton’s book, which contradicts key elements of the story’s account
A White House official retweeted an image of internal documents showing visibility as low as 1 mile the day Trump’s Marine One helicopter trip was scrubbed
French President Emmanuel Macron (C) attends the Armistice Day commemorations marking the end of World War I on November 11, 2017, near the Arc de Triomphe in Paris
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany on Friday also used the fact that the Trump administration had named sources defending him, while the Atlantic only had anonymous sources.
She tore into the media over the report by citing an array of presidential events and photo-ops with troops – including one with a hero military dog and a recent event with Greatest Generation vets during an electrical storm.
McEnany blasted the Atlantic magazine for its stunning report, which among other things reported that Trump skipped a visit to a fabled military cemetery because he wanted to stay out of the rain.
McEnany marshaled new on-the record comment from officials who report to Trump, including former White House staff secretary and counselor to the president Derek Lyons.
‘He was extremely disappointed that arrangements could not be made to get him to the site and that the trip had been cancelled,’ she quoted Lyons as saying.
House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany blasted the media following a report that President Trump called fallen U.S. troops ‘losers’ and avoided a visit to a historic cemetery
A senior Defense Department official with first-hand knowledge of events and a senior Marine Corps officer who was told about them confirmed the accounts to the Associated Press – ‘including the cemetery incident.’
‘This is more made up Fake News given by disgusting & jealous failures in a disgraceful attempt to influence the 2020 Election!’ Trump tweeted Thursday.
Trump fumed late Thursday upon his return from a speech in Pennsylvania: ‘I would be willing to swear on anything that I never said that about our fallen heroes.’
‘There is nobody that respects them more. No animal – nobody – what animal would say such a thing?’ Trump added.
The Joe Biden campaign ran with the story and blasted Trump in a Friday conference call.
‘I’d take my wheelchair and titanium legs over Donald Trump’s supposed bone spurs any day,’ said Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), who lost her legs in a plane accident in Iraq. She was referencing Trump’s deferments during Vietnam due to bone spurs.
‘It’s time for this man to leave office,’ she added.
‘His soul cannot conceive of integrity and honor,’ said Gold Star father Khizr Khan, whose son Humayun Khan was killed by a roadside bomb in Iraq in 2004 and whose Democratic convention speech prompted extended back-and-forth with Trump. ‘His soul is that of a coward,’ Khan said.
Former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen, who has been released from prison, tweeted that the Atlantic article ‘is accurate.’
‘I testified, ‘Trump claimed it was because of a bone spur. When I asked for medical records, he gave me none and said there was no surgery. He finished with: ‘You think I’m stupid, I wasn’t going to Vietnam.”
The report, published by the Atlantic Thursday, credits four separate military sources, and claims that Trump cancelled a visit to Aisne-Marne American Cemetery near Paris in November 2018 because he was worried his hair would be disheveled by the rain.
In a conversation with senior staff before the planned visit, Trump reportedly asked aides: ‘Why should I go to that cemetery? It’s filled with losers.’
During the same trip, the president allegedly later referred to the more than 1,800 Marines who lost their lives in the Battle of Belleau Wood in France as ‘suckers’ for getting killed.
Trump, however, has emphatically denied the report Thursday night, calling it ‘a disgraceful situation’ by a ‘terrible magazine.’
‘It’s a total lie. It’s fake news. It’s a disgrace, and frankly it’s a disgrace to your profession,’ Trump said.
President Donald Trump talks with reporters at Andrews Air Force Base after attending a campaign rally in Latrobe, Pa., Thursday, Sept. 3, 2020, at Andrews Air Force Base
Trump vehemently denied the claims, which were first reported in the Atlantic , that he referred to the American war dead at the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery (above) in France in 2018 as ‘losers’ and ‘suckers.’
The president’s alleged comments are in stark contrast to Trump’s public persona as a self-proclaimed champion of the military and its veterans.
A source described to have first-hand knowledge of the president’s views said Trump ‘doesn’t see the heroism in fighting’. Other sources said Trump is deeply anxious about dying or being disfigured, and that fear manifests itself as disgust for those who have suffered.
The day of the planned visit at Aisne-Marne American Cemetery, November 10, 2018, was also the 243rd birthday of the U.S. Marine Corps.
‘Who were the good guys in this war?
Trump on the First World War
The WWI Battle of Belleau Wood, which lasted 20 days in June 1918 and ended with German forces soundly defeated, was a defining moment in World War I for the Marine Corps.
But Trump, on the same trip, reportedly asked aides, ‘Who were the good guys in this war?’ He also said that he didn’t understand why the United States would intervene on the side of the Allies, the Atlantic reported.
Speaking to reporters Thursday, Trump said he’s be ‘willing to swear on anything’ that he never said anything derogatory ‘about our fallen heroes.’
‘There is nobody that respects them more. No animal — nobody — what animal would say such a thing?’
He also wanted to go to the cemetery in France but said he was unable to because of heavy rainfall in Paris, and that the U.S. Secret Service would not allow him to motorcade there.
‘The helicopter could not fly. The reason it couldn’t fly, because it was raining as hard as I’d ever seen. And on top of that it was very, very foggy,’ Trump said on Thursday.
He added that staffers tried to arrange a motorcade, but that it would have meant going through busy parts of Paris.
‘The Secret Service told me, you can’t do it. I said I have to do it. They said you can’t do it,’ Trump said.
White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, also decried the report, saying ‘It’s sad the depths that people will go to during a lead-up to a presidential campaign to try to smear somebody.’
Trump was meant to join John Kelly in paying his respects to Kelly’s son’s grave and comfort the families of other fallen service members in Arlington Cemetery on Memorial Day, 2017 (above). However, Trump reportedly turned to Kelly and said: ‘I don’t get it. What’s in it for them?’
Tombs are pictured at the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery and Memorial in Belleau, on November 10, 2018
In another account, detailed by the Atlantic, the president told senior advisers that he didn’t understand why the U.S. government placed such value on finding soldiers missing in action because they had performed poorly and gotten caught and deserved what they got, a source said.
The president allegedly said that those who served in the Vietnam War were also ‘losers’ because they failed to dodge the draft. Trump received a medical deferment from Vietnam over alleged bone spurs.
In a conversation with then-Chief of Staff John Kelly, Trump reportedly complained bitterly that he didn’t understand why John McCain, who was imprisoned and tortured during Vietnam, was so revered.
‘Isn’t he kind of a loser?’ Trump asked, according to the four sources.
Trump has previously derided McCain’s legacy as a war hero publicly. On the 2016 presidential campaign trail in Iowa, Trump said: ‘He’s not a war hero. I like people who weren’t captured.’
At the same event, Trump said ‘I don’t like losers’ referencing McCain losing the 2008 presidential election to Barack Obama.
‘I supported him. He lost. He let us down. But, you know, he lost. So I have never liked him as much after that, because I don’t like losers,’ he said.
The senior Marine Corps officer and the Atlantic, citing sources with firsthand knowledge, further reported that Trump said he didn’t want to support the August 2018 funeral of Republican Sen. John McCain.
The Atlantic reported that Trump was also angered that flags were flown at half-staff for McCain, saying: ‘What the f*** are we doing that for? Guy was a f***ing loser.’
Trump acknowledged Thursday he was ‘never a fan’ of McCain and disagreed with him, but said he still respected him and approved everything to do with his ‘first-class triple-A funeral’ without hesitation because ‘I felt he deserved it.’
The magazine said Trump also referred to former President George H.W. Bush as a ‘loser’ because he was shot down by the Japanese as a Navy pilot in World War II.
In a conversation with then-Chief of Staff John Kelly (seen above), Trump reportedly complained bitterly that he didn’t understand why John McCain, who was imprisoned and tortured during Vietnam, was so revered
Trump has previously derided McCain’s legacy as a war hero publicly. On the 2016 presidential campaign trail in Iowa, Trump said: ‘He’s not a war hero. I like people who weren’t captured.’
The Atlantic also details another exchange between Trump and Kelly on Memorial Day, 2017, at the graveside of Kelly’s son, Robert, who died at 29 years old in Afghanistan in 2010.
Trump was meant to join Kelly in paying his respects to Robert’s grave and comfort the families of other fallen service members.
However, Trump reportedly turned to Kelly at his son’s graveside and said: ‘I don’t get it. What’s in it for them?’
The Defense officials also confirmed to AP that Trump made the remarks.
One of Kelly’s friends, who is a four-star general, told the Atlantic: ‘[Trump] can’t fathom the idea of doing something for someone other than himself. He just thinks that anyone who does anything when there’s no direct personal gain to be had is a sucker. There’s no money in serving the nation.
‘Trump can’t imagine anyone else’s pain. That’s why he would say this to the father of a fallen marine on Memorial Day in the cemetery where he’s buried,’ the source continued.
Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden said Thursday, ‘If the revelations in today’s Atlantic article are true, then they are yet another marker of how deeply President Trump and I disagree about the role of the President of the United States.’
‘Duty, honor, country — those are the values that drive our service members,’ he said in a statement Thursday night, adding that if he is elected president, ‘I will ensure that our American heroes know that I will have their back and honor their sacrifice — always.’
Biden’s son Beau served in Iraq in 2008-09.