Updated Oct 2, 2023 - Politics & Policy

Trump did call fallen soldiers "losers," his former chief of staff says

Then-White House Chief of Staff John Kelly and then-President Trump at the White House in 2017. Photo: Mike Theiler-Pool/Getty Images)

Former President Trump didn't want to visit a cemetery near Paris for Americans who fought and died in World War I because it was filled with "suckers" and "losers," John Kelly, his longest-serving chief of staff, said in a statement to CNN on Monday.

Why it matters: In the statement, Kelly supported this and several other instances of Trump disparaging service members that were reported by The Atlantic in 2020 and vehemently denied at the time by the Republican 2024 presidential front-runner.

Of note: Fox News reporter Jennifer Griffin previously confirmed parts of The Atlantic's story, including his refusal to visit the Aisne-Marne Cemetery in France.

The big picture: Other instances in the statement from Kelly, whose Marine son, Robert Kelly, was killed in Afghanistan in 2010, that appeared to confirm the report were:

  • Trump saying at a 2017 Memorial Day event in Arlington National Cemetery: "I don't get it. What was in it for them?"
  • Kelly said Trump did not want to include military amputees at a White House military event in 2018 because it would make spectator's uncomfortable, and added that Trump had said their presence "doesn't look good for me."
  • Kelly also noted that Trump in 2016 publicly belittled the parents of Humayun Khan, an Army captain and Gold Star recipient who was killed in Iraq in 2004, after they criticized him for his anti-Muslim rhetoric.
  • And he condemned Trump for accusing retiring Joint Chiefs of Staff Chair Gen. Mark Milley last month of treason and suggesting that the punishment for such an act would have once been death.

What they're saying: ""A person who is not truthful regarding his position on the protection of unborn life, on women, on minorities, on evangelical Christians, on Jews, on working men and women," Kelly said of Trump.

  • "A person that has no idea what America stands for and has no idea what America is all about. A person who cavalierly suggests that a selfless warrior who has served his country for 40 years in peacetime and war should lose his life for treason — in expectation that someone will take action," he continued, referring to Trump's statements on Milley.
  • "A person who admires autocrats and murderous dictators. A person that has nothing but contempt for our democratic institutions, our Constitution, and the rule of law," he added.
  • "There is nothing more that can be said. God help us."

The other side: A Trump campaign spokesperson said in an emailed statement on Monday night, "John Kelly has totally clowned himself with these debunked stories he's made up because he didn't serve his President well while working as Chief of Staff."

Flashback: Trump fires back at John Kelly: He "just can't keep his mouth shut"

Editor's note: This article has been updated with comment from the Trump campaign and further context.

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