Don’t get John Bolton confused with Trump apologists. The former national security adviser still doesn’t have much nice to say about his former boss (as you’ll see), but Bolton still wants to set the record straight on why Trump didn’t go to Aisne-Marne on Armistice Day 2018. That was “a straight weather call,” Bolton tells Fox News’ Martha MacCallum, and the report from The Atlantic based on anonymous sources is “simply false.”
MacCallum then defends fellow Fox reporter Jennifer Griffin’s claimed confirmation of the story, but Bolton calls that “completely wrong” as well (via Jeff Dunetz):
“According to what that article said, the president made disparaging remarks about soldiers and people buried in the cemetery in connection with the decision for him not to go to the ceremony that was planned that afternoon, and that was simply false…”
“I don’t know who told the author that, but that was false.”
“The main issue was whether or not weather conditions permitted the president to go out to the cemetery.”
Bolton’s not the only non-apologist to defend Trump over The Atlantic’s claim. A top aide to John Kelly told Breitbart over the weekend that he was in the room for the discussion, and he never heard Trump say anything like what The Atlantic’s sources claim. Not on the issue of visiting the cemetery, at least:
“You can put me on record denying that I spoke with The Atlantic,” [Zach] Fuentes told Breitbart News on Monday. “I don’t know who the sources are. I did not hear POTUS call anyone losers when I told him about the weather. Honestly, do you think General Kelly would have stood by and let ANYONE call fallen Marines losers?”
He specifically also stated that he believes The Atlantic’s sources “are unlikely first hand accounts.”
“They are conflating those people from something the day after,” Fuentes said.
To underscore Fuentes’ bona fides as a non-apologist, he went on to complain about Trump’s treatment of Kelly:
“On a separate note, I am disappointed to see POTUS talk about General Kelly so negatively in the middle of being accused of saying negative things about the military,” Fuentes said. “If anyone understands selfless service, it’s General Kelly.”
Both men go out of their way to emphasize that Trump isn’t exactly known for his decorum. Bolton makes a pointed reference to Trump’s penchant for talking badly about anyone “whose last name is not Trump,” and says that “I can’t prove the negative that he never said those things.” However, Trump didn’t say those things in making the decision about the visit to Aisne-Marne, both Bolton and Fuentes insist.
In fact, everyone who has gone on the record says that exact same thing, including at least two public sources with no interest in defending Trump otherwise. The only people who are saying it are anonymous sources talking to different news outlets, who might be the same sources talking to multiple reporters. Put that together with John Bolton’s account from his memoir, written in large part to attack Trump but published prior to The Atlantic’s story, and it looks like The Atlantic either got suckered or tried to sucker its readers.
Update: I’d tend to count Jamie McCourt more on Team Trump, but the US Ambassador to France was in the room for this exchange, and she also says the story is false. In fact, McCourt says, Trump was “devastated” by the cancellation:
Ambassador McCourt was there the day President Trump’s team called off the trip to the cemetery at Belleau Wood because of inclement weather. She is the latest U.S. official who was actually present at the event to publicly deny the Atlantic’s account of events, which is based entirely on anonymous sources.
“Needless to say, I never spoke to the Atlantic, and I can’t imagine who would,” McCourt told Breitbart News. “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.”
“Devastated”? Well, maybe, but Trump’s participation in the Suresnes ceremony the next day shows that he wasn’t opposed to participating in such events. As I wrote the other day, that alone should cast a great deal of skepticism on The Atlantic’s claim, even without the on-the-record rebuttals. But with this many people who were in the room disputing Jeffrey Goldberg’s claims without hiding behind anonymity, one has to wonder whether anyone else was actually in the room at the time — which would make Goldberg’s anonymous sources worthless.