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

Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert WilkieRobert WilkieFormer VA secretaries propose National Warrior Call Day to raise military suicide awareness Biden's nominee for VA secretary isn't a veteran — does it matter? Biden VA pick faces 'steep learning curve' at massive agency MORE defended President TrumpDonald TrumpYoungkin ad features mother who pushed to have 'Beloved' banned from son's curriculum White House rejects latest Trump claim of executive privilege Democrats say GOP lawmakers implicated in Jan. 6 should be expelled 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 McCainMeghan McCain to Trump: 'Thanks for the publicity' Grant Woods, longtime friend of McCain and former Arizona AG, dies at 67 Will Trump choose megalomania over country? 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 BashThe Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Altria - White House tackles how to vaccinate children ages 5+ Manchin lays down demands for child tax credit: report Cassidy says he won't vote for Trump if he runs in 2024 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.”