Top Armed Services Republican ‘dismayed’ at Trump comments on military leaders

The top Republican on the House Armed Services Committee said Wednesday it is wrong for President Trump to question the motivation of U.S. military leaders.

Asked at an event hosted by Defense News on Wednesday whether it was right for Trump to suggest Pentagon officials send troops to war because they are beholden to the defense industry, House Armed Services Committee ranking member Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) said flatly, “no.”

“As a matter of fact, I’ve been a little dismayed at what’s happened in the past few days,” continued Thornberry, who is retiring from Congress at the end of this term.

“I know the president says things for effect a lot, but to have a commander in chief question the motivations of military leaders and basically say they’re in it for themselves is wrong, and it gives our adversaries an opening. Even if you think it, you shouldn’t say it.”

At issue are comments Trump made Monday stating that Pentagon leaders don’t support him because they answer to defense contractors.

“I’m not saying the military is in love with me; the soldiers are,” Trump said at a news conference. “The top people in the Pentagon probably aren’t because they want to do nothing but fight wars so that all of those wonderful companies that make the bombs and make the planes and make everything else stay happy.”

Supporters of Trump have argued the comments evoke former President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s warning about the military-industrial complex and aren’t meant to attack any particular Pentagon official.

Thornberry said Wednesday that Trump’s comments are “wrong on the substance.”

“You can say, ‘Well, their judgment is wrong, or they think too much alike.’ There are some legitimate issues to discuss. But their motivation, their patriotism is, to me, without question,” Thornberry said. “And another thing I’ve learned over the last 26 years is the people who have to send folks into war are the most reluctant to go to war because they’ve seen it themselves, they’ve experienced it themselves, they know the cause.”

Trump’s remarks came after days of controversy over reports that he allegedly made disparaging comments about fallen service members.

The Atlantic reported last week that Trump canceled a visit to the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery near Paris in 2018 because he was worried about the rain ruining his hair and questioned the value of honoring war dead.

“Why should I go to that cemetery? It’s filled with losers,” Trump said, according to The Atlantic.

The magazine also reported that Trump referred to the U.S. Marines who were killed in World War I’s Battle of Belleau Wood as “suckers” in a conversation during the same trip.

Trump and his allies have vociferously denied the story.

But The Associated Press, The Washington Post and Fox News have since independently confirmed many of the elements of the Atlantic’s report.

On Wednesday, Thornberry also defended Fox News reporter Jennifer Griffin, who corroborated parts of The Atlantic report. Trump called for her firing over the weekend.

“Jennifer Griffin is as professional and her integrity is as impeccable as anybody I’ve ever worked with,” Thornberry said.

“So if she says, ‘Somebody told me this,’ you can count on it. Somebody told her that. She is reporting what she has discovered. Again, that doesn’t go to the underlying, if that person told her the truth. But what she does, the way she does it, what she says is impeccable.”

Tags Donald Trump Mac Thornberry
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