Trump, senior staff deny claims that he called fallen US troops 'losers, 'suckers'

President Donald J. Trump arrives to address the Nation’s Mayors on Transforming America’s Communities meeting Friday, Jan. 24, 2020, in the East Room of the White House in Washington, D.C.
President Donald J. Trump arrives to address the Nation’s Mayors on Transforming America’s Communities meeting Friday, Jan. 24, 2020, in the East Room of the White House in Washington, D.C. | White House/Tia Dufour

President Donald Trump and senior White House staff have denied claims that he ever referred to American soldiers as “losers” and “suckers.”

The allegations were made by four anonymous sources in an article published by The Atlantic on Thursday.

The report was immediately lambasted as untrue by current and former White House senior staff, some of whom say they were with the president at the time he's alleged to have made the comments.

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The Atlantic reported that during a 2018 trip to France, Trump refused to visit the Aisne-Marneine American Cemetery because his hair would be disheveled and he thought it wasn’t worth visiting the graves of “losers.” The report also claimed that Trump said he refused to visit the Aisne-Marneine American Cemetery because of inclement weather, which the report said was an “untrue” claim by the president.

The cemetery is known to be hallowed ground by the United States Marine Corps who lost over 1,000 soldiers in the battle of Belleau-Wood. 

“When President Donald Trump canceled a visit to the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery near Paris in 2018, he blamed rain for the last-minute decision, saying that ‘the helicopter couldn’t fly’ and that the Secret Service wouldn’t drive him there. Neither claim was true … 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. In a conversation with senior staff members on the morning of the scheduled visit, Trump said, “Why should I go to that cemetery? It’s filled with losers," The Atlantic reports.

However, emails retrieved through a Freedom of Information Act request revealed that indeed the flight was canceled due to inclement weather.

Washington Examiner White House correspondent Rob Crilly provided screenshots of the emails.

“White House official has sent an image of redacted email apparently showing 'bad weather call' was indeed cause of Trump not attending Aisne-Marne American Cemetery in 2018. Dan Scavino and Stephen Miller were also both there - and deny Atlantic story.”

President Trump also pushed back on the allegations, saying in a Twitter thread on Thursday, " ... I never called our great fallen soldiers anything other than HEROES. This is more made up Fake News given by disgusting & jealous failures in a disgraceful attempt to influence the 2020 Election!”

“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 country, had to be approved by me, as President, & I did so without hesitation or complaint," he added. 

"Quite the contrary, I felt it was well deserved. I even sent Air Force One to bring his body, in casket, from Arizona to Washington. It was my honor to do so. Also, I never called John a loser ..."

Former White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders also aggressively denounced the claims, saying that she was there during the event and only knows of Trump to support the military. 

“The Atlantic story on @realDonaldTrump is total BS. I was actually there and one of the people part of the discussion - this never happened. I have sat in the room when our President called family members after their sons were killed in action and it was heart-wrenching. These were some of the moments I witnessed the President show his heart and demonstrate how much he respects the selfless and courageous men and women of our military. I am disgusted by this false attack.”

Keith Kellogg, a retired three-star Army general and current national security advisor to Vice President Mike Pence, said the report "lacks merit."

"The Atlantic story is completely false. Absolutely lacks merit. I’ve been by the President’s side. He has always shown the highest respect to our active duty troops and veterans with utmost respect paid to those who have given the ultimate sacrifice and those wounded in battle."

Techno Frog, an anonymous lawyer known by many in the political sphere, also shared screenshots of documents supporting Trump's bad weather claim.

"On that Atlantic Story - @JeffreyGoldberg and his "four sources" claim Trump's helicopter flight to the US/French cemetery wasn't canceled due to weather. FOIA docs prove this to be false. Their "sources" are failing basic fact checks - making them essentially worthless."

Jordan Karem, a longtime aide to President Trump, also brought a defense, saying he was "next to Trump the whole day."

"Again, this is 100% false. I was next to @POTUS the whole day! The President was greatly disappointed when told we couldn’t fly there. He was incredibly eager to honor our Fallen Heroes."

Despite the defenses of many of Trump's closest allies, the president's past is not void of commentary that many would deem disrespectful toward military service. 

During a 2015 campaign stop in Iowa, then-presidential candidate Trump disparaged the military service of Sen. John McCain in an interview with pollster Frank Luntz during the Family Leadership Summit where he said the former prisoner of war was "not a war hero."

"He's a war hero because he was captured. I like people that weren't captured," Trump asserted, insisting that McCain had attacked him first by calling his supporters "crazies."

At a press conference afterward, according to The Daily Wire, Trump said, "'If somebody’s a prisoner, I consider them a war hero.'" However, the publication also reported in 2016 that Trump never apologized and at times even denied ever saying McCain isn't a war hero.

McCain was a naval pilot during the Vietnam War and, after being shot down by enemy forces, spent five years as a POW at a camp that became known as the Hanoi Hilton where he and other American soldiers were tortured. 

Trump's past comments about McCain brought a harsh response from Republican lawmakers, including Sen. Lindsay Graham of South Carolina who said at the time that Trump shouldn't be commander-in-chief.

“He’s bringing his name down and he’s not helping the process and he shouldn’t be commander in chief.” said Graham who later became a supporter of Trump after he was elected president. 

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