Pence rejects report on Trump disparaging fallen soldiers as ‘anonymous smear job’

Vice President Pence on Friday rejected a recent news report that President Trump had disparaged fallen U.S. service members, calling the article an “anonymous smear job” in the heat of a presidential campaign.

Pence denied reporting by The Atlantic that Trump canceled a 2018 trip to the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery near Paris because he was worried his hair would become wet from the rain and questioned whether it was necessary to visit a cemetery “filled with losers.” Pence acknowledged that he was not with Trump in Paris at the time.

“It never happened. I talked to the president that day. I know how disappointed President Trump was that there was a bad weather call that did not permit him to fly to Belleau Wood to honor our fallen there,” Pence said on CNBC when asked about the report published on Thursday.

Pence insisted that Trump cares deeply about members of the U.S. armed forces and their families and pointed to the administration’s efforts to boost funding for the military and reform the Department of Veterans Affairs as evidence of that.

“I reject this out of hand as everyone who has spoken out on it,” Pence added. “I think the American people see through this for what it is: just one more anonymous smear job with an election just a couple of months away.”

Pence repeatedly sidestepped questions on whether he would support Gens. John Kelly and Joseph Dunford, both of whom were with Trump in Paris, coming forward to set the record straight.

The Atlantic, citing multiple anonymous sources, also reported that Trump referred to U.S. Marines who were killed at Belleau Wood during World War I as “suckers” because they died and that he grew angry when he saw flags at the White House lowered to half-staff to recognize the late Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), a veteran who often drew criticism from Trump.

The White House has vigorously denied The Atlantic’s report as false. Speaking to reporters late Thursday, Trump lambasted the article as a “disgrace” and “fake news” while suggesting that the author and his sources are “liars.”

Trump has said he was forced to cancel the trip to Belleau Wood because of a bad weather call, and that U.S. Secret Service would not permit him to motorcade to the cemetery. Both Kelly and Dunford — then-White House chief of staff and then-chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, respectively — drove to the cemetery to attend the service.

“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 on Thursday night after a campaign trip to Latrobe, Pa.

“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?” he added.

Other current and former White House officials who were on the trip have denied the account as reported by the magazine.

Tags cemetery Donald Trump John Kelly John McCain Mike Pence Paris soldiers The Atlantic Veterans World War I
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