On Sunday, Atlantic Editor in Chief Jeffrey Goldberg admitted the White House’s account that President Trump’s trip to a cemetery of fallen World War I soldiers in France in 2018 was modified due to bad weather is probably accurate.
“I’m sure all of those things are true,” Goldberg told CNN in an interview on Friday when asked to respond to evidence a story he published saying otherwise is false.
In the story published in The Atlantic on Thursday, Goldberg asserted that multiple senior White House staffers heard President Trump express a desire to cancel his visit to the cemetery because “It’s filled with losers.”
“When President Donald Trump canceled a visit to the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery near Paris in 2018, he blamed the rain for the last-minute decision, saying ‘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,” Goldberg wrote, citing only anonymous sources.
Despite conceding that the cancellation due to weather might be true, Goldberg stood by his story about President Trump’s trip to the cemetery, claiming that “the public’s interest in meeting this information outweigh the ambiguities or the difficulties of anonymous sourcing” and that he will “be continuing to make that effort to move this material directly onto the record.”
While others have claimed to “confirm” the report with more anonymous sources, The Atlantic has published false stories before, which raises more questions about the legitimacy of a report given by unknown people.
President Trump denied the claims by Goldberg and his anonymous sources, saying that other people on the trip such as the Secret Service and Gen. Keith Kellogg can “refute” the allegations.
“I would be willing to swear on anything that I never said that about our fallen heroes. There is nobody that respects them more. So I just think it’s a horrible, horrible thing,” he told reporters as he deplaned from Air Force One. “We made a great evening into, frankly, a very sad evening, when I see a statement like that. No animal, nobody — what animal would say such a thing?”
The White House also denounced the piece in The Atlantic, calling it “patently false” and “offensive fiction.”
“This report is patently false. President Trump holds the military in the highest regard. He’s demonstrated his commitment to them at every turn: delivering on his promise to give our troops a much-needed pay raise, increasing military spending, signing critical veterans reforms, and supporting military spouses. These nameless anecdotes have no basis in fact and are offensive fiction,” said White House strategic communications director Alyssa Farah.
Former National Security Advisor John Bolton’s book, released earlier in the year to criticize Trump, corroborated the White House account that the trip to the cemetery was canceled for the president’s safety over bad weather and response time if the need to leave France unexpectedly arose.
“Marine One’s crew was saying that bad visibility could make it imprudent to chopper to the cemetery. The ceiling was not too low for Marines to fly in combat, but flying POTUS was obviously something very different. If a motorcade was necessary, it could take between ninety and a hundred and twenty minutes each way, along roads that were not exactly freeways, posing an unacceptable risk that we could not get the President out of France quickly enough in case of an emergency,” Bolton wrote.
“It was a straightforward decision to cancel the visit but very hard for a Marine like Kelly to recommend, having originally been the one to suggest Belleau Wood… Trump agreed, and it was decided that others would drive to the cemetery instead.”
Despite claims by CNN that the alleged conversation about the cancellation could’ve occurred after Bolton left, Bolton confirmed the account from his book in an interview with Bloomberg on Friday, saying he had never heard President Trump disparage fallen soldiers.
“I didn’t hear that,” Bolton told The New York Times. “I’m not saying he didn’t say them later in the day or another time, but I was there for that discussion.”