President TrumpDonald John TrumpDHS to label white supremacists as the ‘most persistent and lethal threat’ to the US: report Buttigieg slams Trump over comments on fallen soldiers: ‘He must think we’re all suckers’ White House tells federal agencies to cancel ‘divisive’ racial sensitivity training: report MORE on Thursday angrily denied a report in The Atlantic that he denigrated U.S. service members, calling it “fake news” and a “disgrace” and suggesting the author and his sources are “liars.”
“If they really exist, if people really exist that would have said that, they’re low lifes and they’re liars. And I would be willing to swear on anything that I never said that about our fallen heroes. There is nobody that respects them more,” Trump told reporters at Joint Base Andrews after a campaign stop in Pennsylvania Thursday evening.
“So, I just think it’s a horrible, horrible thing. It made a great evening into frankly a very sad evening when I see a statement like that. No animal, nobody, what animal would say such a thing?” Trump continued.
The Atlantic, citing multiple anonymous sources, reported Thursday that Trump canceled a trip to the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery near Paris, France, in 2018 because he worried his hair would be disheveled by the rain.
Trump also reportedly asked senior staff during a meeting before the planned visit: “Why should I go to that cemetery? It’s filled with losers.”
The magazine also reported that Trump referred to U.S. Marines who were killed at Belleau Wood during World War I as “suckers” because they died.
Speaking to reporters Thursday, Trump claimed that he wanted to go to the cemetery in France but was unable to because of heavy rainfall in Paris, and that the U.S. Secret Service would not allow him to motorcade there.
“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. “Now somebody makes up this horrible story that I didn’t want to go.”
The Atlantic also reported that Trump told senior staff he wouldn’t support the funeral of Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainButtigieg slams Trump over comments on fallen soldiers: ‘He must think we’re all suckers’ Overnight Defense: Critics continue to swipe at Trump over his alleged comments on fallen troops l Trump says he won’t cut funding for Stars and Stripes Ex-DHS official says Trump tried to rescind order for half-staff flags for John McCain MORE (R-Ariz.), whom he also called a “loser,” and grew angry when he saw flags at the White House lowered to half-staff to recognize the senator.
Trump has publicly criticized McCain, who was a prisoner of war in North Vietnam, including during his 2016 presidential campaign when then-candidate Trump said he preferred people “who weren’t captured.” He has also publicly called him a “loser.”
Trump insisted Thursday that he disagreed with McCain but approved the lowering of the flag to half-staff and the use of an Air Force plane to transport McCain’s casket from Arizona.
Trump also refuted the story in a series of tweets, calling it a “disgraceful attempt to influence the 2020 Election.” He dismissed The Atlantic as a “Never Trumper” publication.
I was never a big fan of John McCain, disagreed with him on many things including ridiculous endless wars and the lack of success he had in dealing with the VA and our great Vets, but the lowering of our Nations American Flags, and the first class funeral he was given by our….
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 4, 2020
The president made the remarks to reporters after stepping out of the plane following a trip to Latrobe, Pa., but took no questions.
Prior to the president’s remarks, White House chief of staff Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsThe Hill’s 12:30 Report: Washington reacts to scathing Trump military story Democrats accuse Trump of rushing census to influence congressional redistricting Trump denies report he called US service members buried in France ‘losers,’ ‘suckers’ MORE told reporters aboard Air Force One that that Trump denied the claims in the story “in very emphatic terms.”
Meadows, who was not working in the White House at the time of the 2018 trip to France, echoed Trump in saying he was unable to fly because of the weather and that he tried for two hours to arrange for a motorcade.
Numerous White House officials and Trump allies, including a handful of former officials who were on the trip, have vocally denied details reported by The Atlantic. Veterans and military service members represent a key group where Trump enjoys strong political support.
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany tweeted that the story was “garbage.”
“I see President @realDonaldTrump consistently express his heartfelt gratitude and absolute admiration for our brave men and women in uniform,” McEnany tweeted. “Just yesterday, he was truly humbled to be in the presence of our courageous World War II veterans.”
Updated Friday at 8:12 a.m.