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

Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert WilkieRobert WilkieBiden's nominee for VA secretary isn't a veteran — does it matter? Biden VA pick faces 'steep learning curve' at massive agency Two headstones with swastikas removed from Texas veterans cemetery MORE defended President TrumpDonald TrumpHouse votes to condemn Chinese government over Hong Kong Former Vice President Walter Mondale dies at age 93 White House readies for Chauvin verdict 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 McCain'Real Housewives of the GOP' — Wannabe reality show narcissists commandeer the party George W. Bush: 'It's a problem that Americans are so polarized' they can't imagine him being friends with Michelle Obama Congress brings back corrupt, costly, and inequitably earmarks 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 BashBass 'hopeful' on passing police reform: 'Republicans that I am working with are operating in good faith' Waters: Fauci 'was being bullied' by Jordan during hearing Sullivan: 'There will be consequences' if Navalny dies 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.”