According to the article, Trump canceled a planned 2018 visit to honor U.S. service members who died in Europe during World World I at the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery near Paris over concerns that the day’s rain would ruin his appearance, and because he didn’t think the visit necessary.
“Why should I go to that cemetery? It’s filled with losers,” Trump is reported to have said.
Trump said the weather conditions prevented him from flying by helicopter and a motorcade was deemed too disruptive to local operations.
Trump lambasted the article’s claims that characterized the president as cynical about military service, saying “they made it up.”
“If they really exist, if people really exist that would have said that, they’re lowlifes and they’re liars,” Trump said about the anonymous sources quoted in article. “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.”
The Atlantic said it stands by its reporting.
Former and current Trump officials were quick to come to the president’s defense with their own recollections of events.
“The Atlantic story on @realDonaldTrump is total BS,” Sarah Sanders said in a tweet. The former White House press secretary said she was “one of the people part of the discussion” on Trump’s canceled visit to Aisne-Marne and that Trump’s comments on the war dead “never happened.”
Trump campaign national press secretary Hogan Gidley also pushed back on the reporting, calling the allegations “disgusting, grotesque, reprehensible lies.”
“I was there in Paris and the President never said those things,” Gidley said in a tweeted statement. “In fact, he would never even think such vile thoughts because I know from firsthand knowledge that President Trump absolutely loves, respects and reveres the brave men and women of the United States military.”
Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden criticized the president in a statement.
“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,” Biden said. “I have long said that, as a nation, we have many obligations, but we only have one truly sacred obligation — to prepare and equip those we send into harm’s way, and to care for them and their families.”
Amid fresh fallout from the report Friday morning, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo stepped in to defend the president in an interview on “Fox & Friends.”
Pompeo said he was with Trump on the 2018 trip to Paris, and that he had “never heard the president use the language that assertedly is said in that article about him calling [members of the] military suckers and losers.”
“I’ve never seen that. Indeed, just the contrary. He’s always had the deepest respect,” Pompeo said.
But the secretary could not state for certain why the president’s scheduled cemetery visit was called off, saying he did not know “precisely what the decision-making was inside.”
“I do remember there was weather. I do remember there was lots of discussion about whether they could fly out there or not,” he said. “I don’t know. You’ll have to ask someone who was involved in that decision-making process. I simply wasn’t.”
Trump has publicly criticized military heroes in the past, including the late Sen. John McCain, who was tortured in a North Vietnamese prison camp after his Navy plane was shot down during a bombing mission in the Vietnam War.
“He’s not a war hero,” Trump said in July 2015. “He was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.”
After McCain’s death in Aug. 2018, The Atlantic reported Trump, who was not invited to the Arizona senator’s memorial service, was angered when flags were lowered to half-staff and told senior staff members, “We’re not going to support that loser’s funeral.”
Trump denied making the comments in a tweet late Thursday evening, saying actions taken to honor McCain were “well-deserved.”
“I was never a big fan of John McCain … 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,” Trump said.
Quint Forgey contribued to this report.