President TrumpDonald TrumpTrump defends indicted GOP congressman House to vote Thursday on holding Bannon in contempt Youngkin calls for investigation into Loudoun County School Board amid sexual assault allegations MORE said Friday that he saw no need to apologize after The Atlantic reported that he made disparaging remarks about fallen U.S. soldiers, dismissing it as a “fake story.”
“It’s a fake story written by a magazine that was probably not going to be around much longer, but it was a totally fake story and that was confirmed by many people that were actually there,” Trump told reporters in the Oval Office on Friday. “It was a terrible thing that somebody could say the kind of things — especially to me because I have done more for the military than almost anybody else.”
Trump touted his administration’s efforts to reform the Department of Veterans Affairs, invest in the U.S. military and increase pay for U.S. service members, claiming that the military was “totally depleted” under his predecessor, President Obama.
Military members and veterans represent a key bloc of support for Trump, who is facing reelection in two months and trailing Democratic nominee Joe BidenJoe BidenWhite House: Window for finalizing sweeping budget package 'closing' Jayapal says tuition-free community college 'probably won't' be in spending plan Jan. 6 panel votes to hold Bannon in contempt MORE in national polling.
The White House has vigorously denied The Atlantic report from Thursday that said Trump canceled a 2018 trip to the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery near Paris because he was worried his hair would become disheveled from rainfall and questioned whether it was necessary to visit a cemetery “filled with losers.” A number of current and former White House officials, including some that joined Trump on the 2018 trip, have denied the account as false.
The magazine article, written by Atlantic editor Jeffrey Goldberg, cited multiple anonymous sources. It said that Trump on the same trip also referred to U.S. Marines who were killed at Belleau Wood during World War I as “suckers” because they died.
Asked about the reporting Friday during a meeting with the leaders of Serbia and Kosovo, Trump noted that a book written by his former national security adviser John BoltonJohn BoltonWe've left Afghanistan — but its consequences are just starting to arrive It's time to pull the plug on our toxic relationship with Pakistan Overnight Defense & National Security — Milley becomes lightning rod MORE discussed the Paris trip and didn’t mention any of the details as reported by The Atlantic. Other Republicans have highlighted the passage in Bolton’s book that said the visit to the cemetery was canceled due to bad weather.
Goldberg, in an appearance on MSNBC with Andrea Mitchell, said he believed the president had said every word attributed to him in the story, defending the article and saying his sources were good.
Trump made his first public comments angrily denying the story to reporters late Thursday, after returning to the Washington, D.C., area following a campaign trip to Latrobe, Pa.
“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.
Trump said that he had wanted to make the trip to the cemetery in France but was unable to due to bad weather, and that the U.S. Secret Service would not allow him to motorcade there.
The Atlantic also reported that Trump told his staff that he would not support the funeral of Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainOur military shouldn't be held hostage to 'water politics' Meghan McCain blames 'toxic' hostility for 'The View' exit Beware the tea party of the left MORE (R-Ariz.) and grew angry when he saw flags at the White House lowered to half-staff to recognize the late senator.
Trump has publicly disparaged McCain, who was taken prisoner during the Vietnam War, infamously stating during the 2016 campaign that he preferred people “who weren’t captured.” Some of those commentating on The Atlantic article have said its allegations ring true given Trump's public remarks about McCain.
Trump tweeted late Thursday that he was “never a big fan” of McCain and “disagreed with him on many things” but insisted that he approved the lowering of flags to half-staff “without hesitation or complaint.”