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Veterans Affairs secretary defends Trump: 'I judge a man by his actions'

Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert WilkieRobert Leon WilkieHillicon Valley: Department of Justice sues Google | House Republicans push for tech bias hearing | Biden drawing more Twitter engagement for first time House Republicans push VA for details on recent data breach Overnight Defense: National Guard says no federal requests for election security help | Dems accuse VA head of misusing resources | Army official links COVID-19 to troop suicides MORE defended President TrumpDonald John TrumpMore than 300 military family members endorse Biden Five takeaways from the final Trump-Biden debate Biden: 'I would transition from the oil industry' MORE amid reports that Trump called U.S. service members buried in France “losers” and his public critical comments about the late Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainMore than 300 military family members endorse Biden Jennifer Lawrence says until Trump she was 'a little Republican' Senate is leaning to the Democrats, big time, with a wave MORE (R-Ariz.). 

Asked if he had ever heard the president make disparaging comments about veterans or U.S. service members, Wilkie said “absolutely not.” 

“I would be offended too if I thought it was true,” he said, referencing the report that Trump referred to U.S. marines who were killed at Belleau Wood during World War I as “suckers” for getting killed. 

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Trump also said of his decision to cancel a 2018 trip to the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery near Paris, “why should I go to that cemetery? It’s filled with losers,” The Atlantic reported. 

CNN’s Dana BashDana BashTrump plays video of Biden, Harris talking about fracking at Pennsylvania rally CNN's John King: Barrett 'would be getting 70 votes or more' in Senate if nominated by another GOP president Romney calls first Trump-Biden debate 'an embarrassment' MORE pressed Wilkie on his denial, noting that The Atlantic’s reporting was confirmed by multiple outlets including CNN. 

“What I'm looking at is the Donald Trump I know. The Donald Trump who has turned around Veteran Affairs,” Wilkie said. 

Trump also strongly denied the report

Bash questioned Wilkie on whether the report is consistent with comments Trump has said publicly, highlighting then-candidate Trump’s comments in 2015 saying McCain was a “war hero because he was captured” adding “I like people that weren’t captured.” 

Bash asked Wilkie if Trump’s comments disparaging McCain and other prisoners of war make the details of The Atlantic's report believable. 

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Wilkie dismissed Trump’s comments about McCain as “politics.” 

“It’s politics. It’s the heat of a campaign,” Wilkie said. “I judge a man by his actions.”

He said Trump’s actions have been beneficial for veterans across the country in “ways not seen since the end of WWII.” 

Bash asked Wilkie about Trump’s repeated comments claiming credit for passing the Veterans Choice Act, which was passed by Obama and expanded in 2018 by Trump. 

“You just answered your own question by saying this Trump initiative … expands choice to all veterans,” Wilkie responded. 

He dismissed Trump’s false claims that he passed the Veterans Choice Act as “semantics.”