Writing at the Atlantic, Jeffrey Goldberg has published a claim which he says is backed up by several people who were there as part of Trump’s 2018 trip to Paris, though none of them are named in his story.
When President Donald Trump canceled a visit to the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery near Paris in 2018, he 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.
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. In a conversation with senior staff members on the morning of the scheduled visit, Trump said, “Why should I go to that cemetery? It’s filled with losers.” In a separate conversation on the same trip, Trump referred to the more than 1,800 marines who lost their lives at Belleau Wood as “suckers” for getting killed.
Belleau Wood is a consequential battle in American history, and the ground on which it was fought is venerated by the Marine Corps. America and its allies stopped the German advance toward Paris there in the spring of 1918. But Trump, on that same trip, asked aides, “Who were the good guys in this war?” He also said that he didn’t understand why the United States would intervene on the side of the Allies.
Chief of Staff John Kelly attended the ceremony instead. The piece goes on to argue that Trump’s expression of contempt for the military is in keeping with Trump’s criticism of John McCain who he said was “not a war hero” because he’d been captured. However, it’s worth noting that President Trump made a visit to a different cemetery in the suburbs of Paris the next day (additional photo at the link):
President Donald Trump paid tribute to the “great warriors” who died in World War I as he visited a US cemetery in France, a day after drawing fire for cancelling a similar trip due to bad weather.
Speaking at Suresnes military cemetery in the western Paris suburbs, Trump hailed the “great warriors who gave everything for family, country, God and freedom”.
Trump, who was in Paris to attend a ceremony marking 100 years since the end of the war, also praised the courage of the French and other Allied troops killed in “one of the bloodiest conflicts in human history”.
Karen wrote about the cancellation in Paris two years ago when it happened. As mentioned above, the claims at the time was that Trump cancelled the visit because of bad weather. A Bloomberg reporter suggested information on the cancellation could be verified by checking with the Secret Service:
Fact: White House has lost so much credibility that some don’t believe info it shares.
Reporters can check with Secret Service sources on security reasons one of Trump’s 2 visits to U.S. graves was canceled, but world will still go nuts calling it international embarrassment.
— Jennifer Jacobs (@JenniferJJacobs) November 10, 2018
Despite this explanation, Trump took a lot of heat at the time for skipping the cemetery including this hit from David Frum:
It's incredible that a president would travel to France for this significant anniversary – and then remain in his hotel room watching TV rather than pay in person his respects to the Americans who gave their lives in France for the victory gained 100 years ago tomorrow
— David Frum (@davidfrum) November 10, 2018
The Washington Post published a story about a tweet from the French army that appeared to be mocking President Trump’s excuse. It said, “There is rain, but it does not matter. We remain motivated.”
— Armée de Terre (@armeedeterre) November 12, 2018
So there was plenty of criticism of the decision at the time, but the claim that Trump called the war dead “losers” is new.
It’s the kind of story that could potentially turn off a lot of pro-military voters if true. The fact that it is being revealed now, two years after it allegedly happened and just two months before an election strongly suggests the people leaking this to the Atlantic have a particular political goal. That shouldn’t matter if it’s true. If it’s true then Trump deserves whatever blowback he gets.
I guess the remaining question is why the people who claim this happened haven’t come forward under their own names. These are obviously people who don’t support Trump and therefore probably aren’t working for him two years later. So why not speak on the record?
Update: Here’s the White House response to this story.
3/“… signing critical veterans reforms, and supporting military spouses. These nameless anecdotes have no basis in fact and are offensive fiction.”
— Jake Tapper (@jaketapper) September 3, 2020