President Donald Trump attacked former White House chief of staff John Kelly at an extraordinary White House press conference Friday evening as he denounced a story that he called fallen troops 'sucker' – saying the former Marine General 'got eaten alive' and 'petered out.'
Trump tore into Kelly when asked about the brutal Atlantic story the reports he spoke of fallen U.S. soldiers 'losers' and 'suckers' while skipping a planned solemn centennial visit to a cemetery in France that houses fallen Marines over concerns about getting rained on.
'I know John Kelly. He was with me – didn’t do a good job. Had no temperament. And ultimately was petered out. He was exhausted,' Trump said, when asked about Kelly's notable absence from public comment about the story.
Trump did not assert definitively his belief that Kelly was the source of the report – which he also asserted may have come from made-up sources.
But he accused the former top aide of bad mouthing him.
'This man was totally exhausted. He wasn’t even able to function in the last number of months,' Trump said.
'He was not able to function. He was sort of a tough guy. By the time he got eaten up in this world, he was unable to function.'
'I told him: John you’re going to have to go,' Trump said, describing Kelly's prolonged departure. 'And now he goes out and bad-mouths. Now, there are people that are jealous. There are people that are upset that they’re not here anymore. There are people – we’ve done an incredible job, the virus came in, and now w’ere doing an incredible job again,' Trump said, his thoughts shifting to the pandemic.
'I don’t know that it was him. I haven’t seen that. I mean I see "anonymous." But it could have been a guy like a John Kelly – just so you understand,' Trump said.
Kelly was a key figure who appeared twice in the story, once regarding the 2018 trip to Belleau Wood, and once regarding Trump's 2017 visit to Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day.
Trump was to have joined Kelly in paying respects to his son, Robert Michael Kelly, who is buried there and who was killed in action in Afghanistan.
Trump also cited the weather and French authorities, as well as Paris traffic, as reasons he simply couldn't do the trip to Belleau Wood under the circumstances.
He said the Secret Service, who are doing a report, were 'unable to even think about it' amid bad weather.
'I said: "Nope, I want to go. I insist on going,' Trump said. 'It would have taken us forever. The Paris police said please you can’t do this. They’d have to shut down various parts of Paris. It just was not a possible situation,' Trump added.
Other world leaders, including French President Emanuel Macron, ended up making the 90-minute drive, and Trump's absence became a story at the time.
Earlier, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany tore into the media over the report by citing an array of presidential events and photo-ops with troops – including one with a hero military dog and a recent event with Greatest Generation vets during an electrical storm.
McEnany blasted the Atlantic magazine for its stunning report, which among other things reported that Trump skipped a visit to a fabled military cemetery because he wanted to stay out of the rain.
McEnany marshaled new on-the record comment from officials who report to Trump, including former White House staff secretary and counselor to the president Derek Lyons.
House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany blasted the media following a report that President Trump called fallen U.S. troops 'losers' and avoided a visit to a historic cemetery
'He was extremely disappointed that arrangements could not be made to get him to the site and that the trip had been cancelled,' she quoted Lyons as saying.
Then she ran down a list of many interactions Trump, who serves as commander in chief, has had with the military.
She also produced a heavily redacted document from a Marine official stating 'we have a 'bad weather call' for the scheduled flight in November 2018, and blasted 'cowardly anonymous sources who probably do not even exist.'
She mentioned a World War II vet who flew with the president on a helicopter in Normandy, 'visits the president had with our wounded warriors, special ops teams who came to the Oval Office, including the team that got [Abu bakr] Al-Baghdadi, and they brought along Conan the dog as well.'
U.S. Army dog Conan sits in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, DC, USA, 25 November 2019. Trump honored the Belgian Malinois dog named Conan, who participated in the raid on ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Conan sustained injuries in the chase which led al-Baghdadi to detonate a suicide bomb vest, killing himself and three children
McEnany ran through times Trump has met with U.S. troops, and mentioned the Rose Garden event with a surprise visit by the dog, Conan
She also mentioned the time Trump attended the World Series and brough along veterans. Also there are now Director of National Intelligence Rep. John Ratcliffe (l)and now White House chief of staff Rep. Mark Meadows (r)
President Donald Trump speaks at the Battleship North Carolina in Wilmington, North Carolina, on September 2, 2020, the 75th anniversary of the end of WWII, where he praised the 'greatest generation'
Trump quickly zipped through his remarks amid thunder and an approaching storm
'He met with families at the Army-Navy game. He does this routinely,' she said.
Trump also has met wounded warriors at Walter Reed Naval Medical Center.
'At the World Series, when he got an opportunity to go watch the Nationals, he brought veterans with him,' McEnany continued.
'I've also seen him just a day before this article came up - talk about how there was random lightning popping around and he said, "I want to go out there and I want to talk to our World War II veterans,"' she said. 'This is America's greatest generation and the president holds them in the highest of regards,' she said.'
She teed off on the article at a White House press briefing where national security advisor Robert O'Brien also vouched for his own time talking with Trump about security issues.
She spoke of the dignified transfers of the remains of fallen soldiers, which he called the 'toughest job' any president had, and described times he has had to inform Trump of the deaths of U.S. soldiers.
'I’ve seen him send me to Dover when he couldn’t go because of scheduling issues or him being overseas and asking me to represent him there,' O'Brien said, a comment he made at a time when Trump was facing criticism for traveling there four times in his 3 1/2 year presidency, when there have been 96 such transfers.
'Here is the one truth: No one, and I mean no one, loves and cares for our servicemen and women as President Donald J. Trump,' McEnany said, in one of her signature walk-off conclusions to a press briefing. She then left the podium without taking any questions.
McEnany's recitation came as the White House furiously fighting back against a politically explosive report that the president called U.S. military heroes killed in battle 'losers' and 'suckers' – and turned down a trip to visit U.S. war dead in France due to the rain.
President Donald Trump rejoined the fray on Friday, attacking the Atlantic magazine, which published the report that he termed 'fake.'
'The Atlantic Magazine is dying, like most magazines, so they make up a fake story in order to gain some relevance,' Trump tweeted. 'Story already refuted, but this is what we are up against. Just like the Fake Dossier. You fight and and fight, and then people realize it was a total fraud!' Trump continued.
Trump ripped the report as he met with the president of Serbia and the prime minister of Kosovo at the White House Friday.
'It was a terrible thing that somebody could say the kind of things – especially to me, because I’ve done more for the mil than almost anybody else,' Trump fumed. 'Nobody’s done what I’ve done' for the military, Trump claimed.
Then he brought up the tell-all book by former national security advisor John Bolton – a book that accuses Trump of giving 'personal favors to dictators.'
'I hate to bring up his book, but john Bolton, no friend of mine I mean he didn’t know too much about what he was doing, he didn’t do a good job. But he wrote a book. He talks about this incident and he doesn’t mention it,' said Trump.
'There’s nobody that considers the military and especially the people that have given their lives in the military – to me they’re heroes,' Trump said of Americans who die while serving the country. 'It’s even hard to believe how they could do it. And I say that. The level of bravery ...' he said.
In addition to the president himself calling the story in the Atlantic fill of 'lies,' the White House communications shop has turned to an unlikely source of defense: Bolton, who Trump has ridiculed since his slicing memoir.
'He is a liar,' Trump said after Bolton released his tell-all book trashing the administration.
Following publication of the Atlantic story, the White House press shop retweeted an image of Bolton's book, 'The Room Where it Happened,' where Bolton says it was bad weather and the special contingencies of presidential travel that caused the White House to nix a planned cemetery visit by Trump in 2018.
The White House's furious pushback against a new Atlantic article that reports President Donald Trump called fallen soldiers 'losers' included quoting from the tell-all book by former National Security Advisor John Bolton. Trump called Bolton a 'liar' after the release of his book
President Trump attacked the Atlantic magazine and called its report 'fake'
Trump was to have visited the cemetery near Belleau Wood on the 100th anniversary which holds a special place for Marines.
'The press turned canceling the cemetery visit into a story that Trump was afraid of the rain and took glee in pointing out that other world leaders traveled around during the day,' Bolton wrote. 'Of course, none of them were the President of the United States, but the press didn't understand the rules for US Presidents are different form the rules for 190 other leaders who don't command the world's greatest military forces.'
Bolton wrote that Marine One's crew were