2020-09-05 16:32:27 UTC
up and says 'This is not journalism, this is activism'
*Trump called US soldiers killed or injured 'losers' and 'suckers', senior
administration sources told the Atlantic
*The Atlantic says Trump cancelled a visit a US war grave because he was worried
about his hair in the rain
*The president was expected to attend a ceremony at the Aisne-Marne American
Cemetery in Paris in 2018
*He reportedly asked: 'Why should I go to that cemetery? It's filled with
*He also allegedly referred to 1,800 Marines who died in the WWI Battle of
Belleau Wood in France as 'suckers'
*He reportedly asked 'Who were the good guys in this war?'
*Trump is also alleged to have said he didn't understand why the US would
intervene on the side of the Allies
*The president allegedly said those who served in the Vietnam were 'losers' as
they failed to dodge the draft
*Fox News and the Washington Post have confirmed the reporting, while AP has
confirmed part of it
*The White House mounted furious pushback, hammering the piece for using
*Melania Trump on Friday said the story was false and 'activism'
*Trump suggested that John Kelly - who has remained silent on the report - was a
source for the 'false' story
*Trump also said Fox News reporter Jennifer Griffin, who confirmed the Atlantic
story, should be fired
Donald Trump has demanded that Fox News fire a reporter after she confirmed a
report in the Atlantic which suggested he had mocked and belittled war veterans.
The politically explosive report, published on Thursday, claimed 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.
The president gloated in a tweet that the Fox News story 'did not confirm the
most salacious part' of the Atlantic's report that he had called First and
Second World War veterans 'losers' and had skipped visiting the graves of
American soldiers because he didn't want the rain to ruin his hair.
But Jennifer Griffin did confirm that Trump called US Army veterans 'suckers',
had not wanted wounded soldiers included in military parades because 'it was not
a good look' and had not wanted to honor American war dead at Aisne-Marne
Cemetery outside Paris.
Fox News, the Washington Post and Associated Press were among the news outlets
to all confirm the Atlantic's reporting on Friday.
Trump was so enraged by Fox News' reporting, confirming the story, that he
demanded the journalist Griffin be fired.
The president tweeted a link to a story by Breitbart, the far-Right,
Trump-supporting website. It claimed that he was vindicated because Griffin only
reported her sources as saying Vietnam veterans were 'suckers' - unlike the
Atlantic, which reported that he'd said WW1 veterans were 'suckers'.
Breitbart also claimed victory for Trump because Griffin was unable to
independently confirm the Atlantic's story that Trump cancelled a planned trip
to a war cemetery in Paris, in 2018, because he was worried about his hair.
Griffin was only able to confirm that he didn't want to go and chose not to.
Melania Trump earlier on Friday evening joined the fray and denied the
highly-damaging report, tweeting that it was untrue and brought shame on
'TheAtlantic story is not true,' she said.
'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
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.
'This man was totally exhausted. He wasnt 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 youre 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 theyre not here anymore.
There are people weve done an incredible job, the virus came in, and now
were doing an incredible job again,' Trump said, his thoughts shifting to the
'I dont know that it was him. I havent seen that. I mean I see "anonymous."
But it could have been a guy like a John Kelly just so you understand,' Trump
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
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
'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
'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
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.
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
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 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 marshaled new on-the record comment from officials who report to Trump,
including former White House staff secretary and counselor to the president
'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.
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
'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
'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
combat helicopter accident during the Iraq war.
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.
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
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.'
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
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
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
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
'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.