Allegations, collected anonymously, describe multiple offensive comments by the president about fallen and captured US servicemen, including labeling World War I dead in a cemetery as “losers” and “suckers” American military in France in 2018.
The reported comments, many of which were independently confirmed by the PA, shed new light on Trump’s previous public denigration of U.S. troops and military families. This opens up a new political vulnerability for the president less than two months from election day.
Voice crackles, Biden told reporters that “you know in your gut” Trump’s comments, if true, are “deplorable.”
“I’ve never been so disappointed in my entire career with a leader I’ve worked with, president or whatever,” Biden added. “If the article is true – and it appears to be, based on other things he’s said – it’s absolutely damning. It’s a shame. ”
He added that “the president should humbly apologize to every Gold Star mom and dad, every Blue Star family he has disparaged… Who the hell does he think he is? ”
Trump, in the Oval Office, said no apology was needed because it was a “false story.”
Trump reportedly made the comments in November 2018, when he was scheduled to visit the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery on a trip to France. The White House said the visit was rubbed because the foggy weather made the helicopter trip from Paris too risky and a 90-minute drive was deemed impossible.
Speaking in the Oval Office on Friday, Trump denied ever making such comments: “It was a terrible thing that someone could say things like that – and especially to me because I did more for it. army than almost anyone else. ”
Biden’s criticism was personal. The former vice president often speaks of his pride in his late son Beau’s service in the Delaware National Guard. As he spoke, Biden grew angry, raising his voice to refute Trump’s alleged comments that the Marines who died in action were “suckers” for being killed.
“When my son was an assistant lawyer for the United States and volunteered to go to Kosovo during the war, as a civilian he was no jerk,” Biden said.
“When my son volunteered to join the US military as attorney general, he went to Iraq for a year, won bronze star and other accolades, he was no jerk. !
Beau Biden died of cancer in 2015.
Returning to Washington after a visit to Pennsylvania on Thursday, Trump told reporters the Atlantic report was “a shameful situation” by a “terrible magazine.”
“I would swear on anything I have ever said about our fallen heroes,” Trump told reporters, gathered on the tarmac in the dark. “There is no one who respects them more. No animal – no one – what animal would say such a thing? ”
Biden framed the election from the start as a referendum on the character of Trump. His allies quickly took to the reported comments in hopes it could drive a wedge between military and veteran families and Trump. They also believe the question could help convince disgruntled Republican voters who are fed up with Trump’s constant controversies.
In particular, Biden’s team believes his well-documented experience, both personally and politically, with military issues could help him make inroads with a population that broadly supported Trump in the 2016 election and could help influence this year’s elections in a number of close movements. States. Biden himself did not serve in the military.
Military families broadly supported Trump in the 2016 election, and a Pew Research Center survey of veterans in June 2019 found that, overall, veterans were more pro-Trump than the general public. , and that about 60% of the veterans surveyed were identified as Republicans.
In a call with reporters organized by Biden’s campaign on Friday, Illinois Senator Tammy Duckworth lambasted Trump for “belittling the sacrifices of those who have shown more courage than they are able”.
Duckworth, a retired Army National Guard lieutenant colonel who lost both legs in the Iraq war, has been a prominent critic of Trump’s handling of military matters. Hitting Trump for allegedly inventing a wound to avoid serving in the Vietnam War, Duckworth said she would “take my wheelchair and my titanium legs over Donald Trump’s supposed bone spurs any day.” ”
Khizr Khan, the father of the Gold Star who gained national attention after criticizing Trump at the 2016 Democratic National Convention, joined Duckworth on the call and said that “Trump’s life is a testimony of selfishness ”.
“The words we say are windows to our soul. So when Donald Trump calls anyone a loser who puts their life in the service of others, we understand the soul of Trump, ”he said. Khan’s son, Humayun, was killed in action in Iraq in 2004.
In 2016, Trump responded to Khan’s criticism by claiming he had made his own sacrifices and launched an Islamophobic attack on Khan’s wife, Ghazala Khan, who wore a headscarf to the Democratic convention, saying, “She didn’t had nothing to say. She probably – maybe she wasn’t allowed to have anything to say. Tell me. ”
Trump also denied calling the late Arizona Senator John McCain, a decorated naval officer who was a prisoner of war in Vietnam, a “loser” after his death in August 2018.
Trump admitted on Thursday that he was “never a fan” of McCain and disagreed with him, but said he always respects him and approves of anything related to his “triple-A funeral of first class ”without hesitation because“ I felt he deserved it ”.
In 2015, shortly after launching his presidential bid, Trump publicly lambasted McCain, saying, “He’s not a war hero.” He added, “I like people who haven’t been captured. At the time, Trump also shared a news article on Twitter calling McCain a “loser.”
Trump only amplified his criticism of McCain as the Arizona lawmaker became critical of his harsh political style, culminating in a late-night ‘no’ vote scuttling Trump’s plans to repeal the law. affordable care. That vote shattered the few partisan loyalties that bound the two men, and Trump continued to attack McCain for that vote, even posthumously.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told Fox & Friends on Friday that he was with the president for much of the trip to France. “I’ve never heard him use the words that are described in this article,” Pompeo said.
Asked Friday about the possibility of seeing Trump when they are both in Shanksville, Pa., On the anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks next week, Biden said: “I didn’t know he was going until to what I announced by myself. . ”
When asked if he would agree to share a scene with Trump, he replied, “Yes. He is still President of the United States of America ”.
AP writers James LaPorta and Jill Colvin contributed.