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Trump denies report he called US service members buried in France 'losers,' 'suckers'

President TrumpDonald TrumpWhite House denies pausing military aid package to Ukraine Poll: 30 percent of GOP voters believe Trump will 'likely' be reinstated this year Black Secret Service agent told Trump it was offensive to hold rally in Tulsa on Juneteenth: 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. 

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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 McCainOvernight Energy: Lake Mead's decline points to scary water future in West | White House leads opposition to raising gas tax | Biden taps ex-New Mexico lawmaker for USDA post Lake Mead's decline points to scary water future in West Five takeaways from the Biden-Putin summit 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.

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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.

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 MeadowsThe Hill's Morning Report - Dems to go-it-alone on infrastructure as bipartisan plan falters Trump, allies pressured DOJ to back election claims, documents show Trump endorsement shakes up GOP Senate primary in NC 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.