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On-the-record sources, paper trail rebut anonymous claims Trump disrespected American war dead

A growing list of senior officials traveling with President Trump in 2018 as well as official Navy documents rebut "The Atlantic" magazine's anonymously sourced claims about a canceled presidential visit to an American World War I cemetery in France.

Published: September 8, 2020 1:30pm

Updated: September 9, 2020 10:17am

A growing list of government heavyweights traveling with President Trump in 2018 as well as official Navy documents rebut "The Atlantic" magazine's anonymously sourced claims about President Trump skipping a visit to an American military cemetery in France.

The Atlantic editor-in-chief Jeffrey Goldberg published an article Thursday claiming that Trump canceled a visit to the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery after calling dead soldiers "losers" and "suckers" for getting killed.

"Trump rejected the idea of the visit because he feared his hair would become disheveled in the rain, and because he did not believe it important to honor American war dead, according to four people with firsthand knowledge of the discussion that day," Golberg wrote. "[H]e blamed rain for the last-minute decision, saying that 'the helicopter couldn't fly' and that the Secret Service wouldn't drive him there. Neither claim was true."

However, government documents obtained in a FOIA request by BuzzFeed shows the Navy canceled the troop cemetery visit due to rain.

"Regarding the lede of this story: I obtained documents from the Navy via #FOIA about Trump's 2018 trip to Aisne-Marne American Cemetery near Paris and the documents say his transport was canceled by the Navy due to rain," Jason Leopold, a senior investigative reporter for BuzzFeed, tweeted while linking to documents showing military officials refusing to support a helicopter flight due to inclement weather.

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After his article was published, Goldberg himself even admitted he believed the President's account of why the cemetery trip was nixed.

"I'm sure all of those things are true," Goldberg told CNN in an interview with CNN's "New Day" on Friday after he was asked about an account from John Bolton, Trump's former national security adviser. Bolton wrote in his recent book "The Room Where it Happened" (which is otherwise highly critical of Trump) about the helicopter trip being cancelled due to rain and the ground transportation options being curtailed due to traffic constraints that would be placed on the French people.

Goldberg did not respond to requests for comment from Just the News. An automated email response to a Just the News reporter from his email account stated that he was unable to respond to all requests due to volume.

"I didn't hear either of those comments or anything even resembling them," Bolton told John Roberts of Fox News. "I was there at the point in time that morning when it was decided that he would not go Aisne-Marne cemetery. He decided not to do it because of John Kelly's recommendation. It was entirely a weather-related decision, and I thought the proper thing to do." 

Bolton belongs to a much longer list of current and former government officials, many of whom were with the president at the time, who have now spoken out on the record either to factually refute The Atlantic's claims or attest that they are wildly out of character. Some of those public rebuttals follow below:

Trump advisor Derek Lyons: "I was with the President the morning after the scheduled visit. He was extremely disappointed that arrangements could not be made to get him to the site and that the trip had been canceled. I have worked for the President for his entire administration. One of my responsibilities is working with him on the many letters he signs to the families of our nation's fallen heroes. In all my time at the White House, I have never heard him utter a disparaging remark, of any kind, about our troops. In my view, he holds the brave men and women of our armed forces in the highest regard."

U.S. Ambassador to France and Monaco Jamie McCourt"In my presence, POTUS has NEVER denigrated any member of the U.S. military or anyone in service to our country. And he certainly did not that day, either. Let me add, he was devastated to not be able to go to the cemetery at Belleau Wood. In fact, the next day, he attended and spoke at the ceremony in Suresnes in the pouring rain."

Trump Deputy Chief of Staff Dan Scavino: "I was with POTUS in France, with Sarah, and have been at his side throughout it all. Complete lies by 'anonymous sources'…"

Trump Senior Advisor Stephen Miller: "The President deeply wanted to attend the memorial event in question and was deeply displeased by the bad weather call."

Former presidential advisor Johnny DeStefano"I was on this trip. The Atlantic bit is not true. Period."

Former Deputy Chief of Staff Dan Walsh: "I can attest to the fact that there was a bad weather call in France and that the helicopters were unable to safely make the flight. Overall, the President's support and respect for our American troops, past and present, is unquestionable."

Former White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders: "I was actually there and one of the people part of the discussion — this never happened."

Former Deputy Chief of Staff Zach Fuentes"I did not hear POTUS call anyone losers when I told him about the weather."

Maj. General (Ret.) William Matz"No one has done more for our veterans than President Trump, and he enjoys a relationship of mutual affection and honor with those who wear and have worn the uniform of the United States military and their families. Those who know President Trump know that the anonymous smears peddled by The Atlantic have no basis in fact or reality, and do a terrible disservice to journalism and to our veterans, living and deceased."

Secretary Of Defense Mark Esper: "President Trump has the highest respect and admiration for our nation's military members, veterans and families. That is why he has fought for greater pay and more funding for our armed forces."

Secretary Of State Mike Pompeo: "I've been with this president now for coming on four years. I've never heard the president use the language that assertively is said in that article."

Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie: Denied ever hearing President Trump make such remarks: "Absolutely not."

Deputy Chief of Staff Tony OrnatoDenied the Atlantic's story.

Lt. General and National Security Advisor to Vice President Pence Keith Kellogg: "The Atlantic story is completely false. Absolutely lacks merit. I've been by the President's side. He has always shown the highest respect to our active duty troops and veterans with utmost respect paid to those who have given the ultimate sacrifice and those wounded in battle."

Former Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney"I never heard the President disparage our war dead or wounded. In fact, the exact opposite is true. I was with him at the 75th Anniversary of the D-Day invasion in Normandy. As we flew over the beaches by helicopter he was outwardly in awe of the accomplishments of the Allied Forces, and the sacrifices they paid."

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