Sources dispute claim Trump nixed visit to military cemetery over disdain for slain veterans, but back up parts of Atlantic report

Sources said they never heard Trump call war dead 'losers' or 'suckers;' other details remain in dispute

President Trump canceled a planned 2018 trip to a cemetery for American war dead in France because of the weather and not because of disdain for the slain soldiers who are buried there or concern about how the weather would affect his hair, two sources told Fox News, despite a report from The Atlantic making that claim.

Still, the details from that trip and other events described in the explosive piece remain a subject of dispute.

Two sources who were on the trip in question with Trump refuted the main thesis of The Atlantic's reporting -- that Trump canceled a trip to the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery, which is at the site of Belleau Wood, an important World War I battle, because he believed the dead soldiers to be "losers."

The White House had said at the time the decision was made because of poor weather for flying Marine One and the fact that the cemetery was too far a distance for a motorcade to drive.

One of the sources who refuted the Atlantic's reporting is not a fan of Trump. Both sources said that Trump was upset about not being able to go to Aisne-Marne and said they had never heard Trump refer to war dead at Aisne-Marne or in the battle of Bellau Wood as "losers" or "suckers."


Both sources also noted that Trump was not worried about how the weather would affect his hair, as The Atlantic reported. Trump the next day stood in the rain for an hour at a different event.

The sources only rejected the claim about Aisne-Marne, and not other accounts where Trump is alleged to have insulted soldiers. Trump has previously gone after the late Sen. John McCain, who was a prisoner of war in Vietnam.

But a former senior Trump administration official who was in France traveling with the president in November 2018 did confirm other details surrounding that trip, and had a different account of the canceled cemetery visit.

The source said that during the trip, the president was not in a good mood, angry at something the French president had said and questioning the need to go to two cemeteries. Trump apparently was warned he'd get bad press for canceling. The source also said there was no security reason not to drive to the cemetery, which was about 40 miles from Paris.

“The president drives a lot. The other world leaders drove to the cemeteries. He just didn’t want to go,” the source said.

According to the former official, Trump also had said of the Vietnam War: “It was a stupid war. Anyone who went was a sucker.” But sources said Trump did not use that term to refer to war dead interred at Aisne-Marne.

Separately, this former official also heard the president say of American veterans: "What’s in it for them? They don’t make any money?" Multiple sources have confirmed Trump said something to this effect during a 2017 visit at Arlington cemetery, as described in the Atlantic piece, though one insisted Trump was not being derogatory.

Further, regarding accounts of the president’s July 4th military parade planning, the source said that during a planning session at the White House after seeing the Bastille Day parade in 2017, the president said regarding the inclusion of wounded veterans, “That’s not a good look” and “Americans don’t like that.”

The White House was adamant that The Atlantic allegations are unfounded.

"Not a soul brave enough to put their name on any of these accusations," White House spokesman Judd Deere said Thursday of the report. "That's because they are false. Just another anonymously sourced story meant to tear down a commander in chief who loves our military and has delivered on the promises he's made. What a disgrace!"

Former national security adviser John Bolton, who has openly opposed Trump, saying he will vote for neither the president nor Joe Biden in November, wrote a scathing memoir about his time in the White House. In a passage in that memoir, Bolton actually defends Trump over the decision not to go to the Aisne-Marne.

"Marine One's crew was saying that bad visibility could make it imprudent to chopper to the cemetery," Bolton wrote. "The ceiling was not too low for Marines to fly in combat, but flying POTUS was obviously something very different. If a motorcade were 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. It was a straightforward decision to cancel the visit..."

Bolton later added: "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. Of course, none of them were the President of the United States, but the press didn't understand that rules for US Presidents are different from rules for 190 other leaders who don't command the world's greatest military forces."


Sources told Fox News the decision not to go to the cemetery was made by chief of staff John Kelly and his aide Zach Fuentes. Bolton further wrote that Kelly was the one who recommended the move, saying it was quite difficult for him to do because he is a Marine himself.

Trump personally addressed The Atlantic's story on Twitter.

"The Atlantic Magazine is dying, like most magazines, so they make up a fake story in order to gain some relevance," he wrote Friday. "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!"

In a press conference Friday night, Trump took aim at Kelly, even claiming he “could have been" a source on the story. And he slammed the claims as "a hoax."

Vice President Pence also called the report "absurd" on FOX Business Friday.

"Any suggestion that this president doesn't love and respect the men and women of our armed forces and their families is absurd on its face to me because I have walked the grounds of Arlington National Cemetary side-by-side with President Donald Trump," Pence said.

Fox News' Sam Dorman contributed to this report.