Democrat veterans in Congress attack Trump over reports the president disparaged troops

Abbie Bennett
September 04, 2020 - 1:21 pm
U.S. President Donald Trump salutes cadets at the beginning of the commencement ceremony on June 13, 2020 in West Point, New York.

Photo by David Dee Delgado/Getty Images


On Friday, House Democrats, including the chairman of the Veterans Affairs Committee and lawmakers who are also veterans, attacked Donald Trump over recent reports that the president made disparaging comments about American troops.

On Thursday, The Atlantic reported that four sources with firsthand knowledge said the president "has repeatedly disparaged the intelligence of service members, and asked that wounded veterans be kept out of military parades." He also allegedly referred to fallen service members as "losers" and "suckers," among other comments.

The president, in no uncertain terms, denied the reports. 

"Everyone knows it's totally false," the president said, according to a White House transcript Friday. "To think that I would make statements negative to our military and our fallen heroes, when nobody has done what I've done ... with the military budgets, with getting pay raises for our military."

Those reports were soon after confirmed by the Associated Press and The Washington Post and later by other outlets such as Fox News

In a press call on Friday, House Democrats including Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Mark Takano, D-California, and Democrats who have served in the military such as Reps. Gil Cisneros of California, Jason Crow of Colorado, Elaine Luria of Virginia and Mikie Sherrill of New Jersey, blasted the president over his alleged comments. Cisneros and Luria serve on the House Veterans Affairs Committee chaired by Takano and Sherrill, Crow, Cisneros and Luria all serve on the House Armed Services Committee.

"This is his greatest desecration of the sacrifices of all veterans," Takano said. "Our fallen patriots fought for a better America, a more perfect union — and Donald Trump dishonors them." 

Takano aired a list of grievances against the president, including "Mar-a-Lago cronies" holding sway over the Department of Veterans Affairs, "fast-tracking" a controversial post-traumatic stress treatment, taking credit for the VA Choice Act, "rolling back regulations that allowed for-profit schools to prey on veterans," "obstructing Congressional oversight" and more. 

"Our veterans are not losers, they are not suckers," Takano said. "They are patriots and I am profoundly grateful for their service." 

Crow, a former Army captain who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, said Trump has a "long history of disparaging" troops and veterans. 

"He simply doesn't understand or respect service," Crow said. "He views the world only as a series of transactions for his own benefit." 

The president, according to The Atlantic's reporting, canceled a visit to the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery in Paris in 2018, saying, "Why should I go to that cemetery? It's filled with losers." On the same trip, the president allegedly referred to the more than 1,800 Marines who died at Belleau Wood as "suckers" for being killed in action. 

Lawmakers said they were simultaneously shocked but also not surprised by the reports. 

"I'm proud to be a veteran," Navy veteran Cisneros said. "(The president) does not understand sacrifice, sacrifice for more than oneself." 

Navy veteran Sherrill said Trump "started this administration off on a bad foot with the military when (he) undermined the service of John McCain and other POWs" and Gold Star families. 

Sherrill said she did not serve in the Navy "because I was stupid or a sucker. I did it because I love this country." 

Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., ranking member of the Veterans Affairs Committee, said the president's comments are " offensive and deeply unbecoming of America’s commander in chief. It is a slap in the face of our servicemembers, veterans, and military families who have given everything to their country.”

"Donald Trump, who chose not to serve, has the audacity to call those who gave the ultimate sacrifice 'losers,'" said Sen. Tom Carper, D-Delaware, a Vietnam veteran. "It's vile from anyone, but especially a commander in chief." 

Army veteran Rep. G.K. Butterfield, D-North Carolina, said Trump is "unfit" to be president and commander in chief, and said he was "completely disgusted" by the president's alleged comments. 

"If he can't bear witness to those who have sacrificed for our nation, perhaps he should avert his cowardly eyes," said Army combat veteran Tammy Duckworth, D-Illinois. 

Meanwhile, some lawmakers and top officials came to the president's defense on Friday. 

Sen. Kevin Cramer, R-North Dakota, who serves on the Armed Services and Veterans Affairs committees, said the president "loves our veterans and regularly honors those who paid the ultimate sacrifice." 

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, a former Army captain, in an interview with Fox News, said he had never heard the president speak that way, "calling military suckers and losers. I've never seen that -- indeed, just the contrary. He has always had the deepest respect. I'm a veteran, too. I care deeply about these young men and women. I've watched the president honor them in every situation that I've been in with him." 

Report: Trump disparaged US war dead as 'losers,' 'suckers'

Reach Abbie Bennett: or @AbbieRBennett.

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