In the Oval Office on Friday (Saturday AEST), he again derided The Atlantic, calling its reporting a “disgrace,” adding, “especially because I’ve done more for the military than almost anyone else”.
“To me they’re heroes,” Trump said about US service members. “It’s even hard to believe how they can do it, the level of bravery, and to me they are absolute heroes.”
On Friday, John Bolton, his former national security adviser, said he was on the trip in question and never heard Trump make those remarks.
The report by The Atlantic‘s editor-in-chief, Jeffrey Goldberg, said that Trump decided against visiting a cemetery for US soldiers killed in World War I during a 2018 visit to France because the rain would have mussed his hair and because he did not believe it was important to honour the war dead.
The article attributed the episode to “four people with first-hand knowledge of the discussion that day,” but did not name them.
During a conversation with senior officials that day, according to the magazine, Trump said: “Why should I go to that cemetery? It’s filled with losers.” On the same trip, the article said, he referred to American Marines slain in combat at Belleau Wood as “suckers” for getting killed.
The article also said that Trump’s well-known antipathy for Senator John McCain, a Vietnam War hero, was on display after the senator’s death in August 2018.
“We’re not going to support that loser’s funeral,” the article quotes Trump telling his staff. He became furious at seeing flags lowered to half-staff. “What the f— are we doing that for? Guy was a f—ing loser,” the President told aides, according to the article.
People familiar with Trump’s comments say he has long scorned those who served in Vietnam as being too dumb to get out of it, as he did through a medical diagnosis of bone spurs in his heels. At other times, according to those familiar with the remarks, Trump would marvel at people choosing military service over making money.
Half a dozen current and former aides to Trump backed him up with Twitter messages disputing the Atlantic article.
“I was actually there and one of the people part of the discussion – this never happened,” wrote Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who was then the White House press secretary.
“This is not even close to being factually accurate,” added Jordan Karem, the President’s personal aide at the time.
Furious Biden labels comments ‘disgusting’
A visibly angry Joe Biden on Friday lashed the President over reporting that Trump had made extraordinarily disrespectful remarks about fallen soldiers, suggesting that such words further confirm his view that the Republican is unfit to serve as commander in chief.
In a fiery speech and subsequent news conference, Biden strained to contain his outrage about the report by The Atlantic.
“If what is written in The Atlantic is true, it’s disgusting,” Biden said in remarks he delivered in a gymnasium a short drive from his home. “It affirms what most of us believe to be true: that Donald Trump is not fit to be commander in chief.”
Ticking through a list of other well-documented instances in which Trump has dismissed the sacrifices of military veterans, including those of the late Senator John McCain, Biden continued, “President Trump has demonstrated he has no sense of service, no loyalty to any cause other than himself.”
Biden, who noted at times that he was trying to keep his language in check in an effort to strike a presidential tone, spoke in strikingly personal terms Friday about the military service of his late son, Beau Biden, who served in the Iraq War and died in 2015 of brain cancer.
With barely concealed fury, he said that Beau Biden “wasn’t a ‘sucker,'” adding, “The servicemen and women he served with, particularly those who did not come home, were not ‘losers.'”
He called the reporting “damning” and said that it appeared to be true, adding, “I’ve just never been as disappointed in my whole career with a leader.”
“It is sick,” said Biden, who is keenly attuned to the death toll of US troops and often concludes his remarks with the phrase, “May God protect our troops.”
“It is deplorable. It is so un-American. It is so unpatriotic.”
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The New York Times