Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert Wilkie defended President Donald Trump amid the controversy caused by a recent Atlantic report that cited unnamed sources claiming that Trump made disparaging comments about deceased U.S. service members.
Asked by CNN host Dana Bash about whether he had ever heard Trump making comments to such effect about veterans or U.S. service members, Wilkie responded “absolutely not.”
“And I would be offended too if I thought it was true,” he continued. “Again, I think anonymous [sources] are the same people that brought you fake heart attacks, fake strokes, Russian collusion.” He then expressed that he is proud that Trump has improved veterans affairs.
The CNN host interjected to say that “nobody at CNN” had ever reported about the topics of “strokes and so forth,” referring to rumors sparked by New York Times reporter, Michael Schmidt, that Vice President Mike Pence was on standby to assume presidential powers when Trump visited Walter Reed Hospital in November 2019.
She later asked him, “How can you be sure that that is not true especially since you werent there?”
“Well, nobodys backing down from the anonymous sourcing on it, and some of these sources that you cite are general officers … Ive spent my entire life around the military and Ive never known any general officers to hide behind the stars, so what Im looking at is the Donald Trump that I know,” he responded before proceeding to praise Trump for having “turned around” veterans affairs from what it was under the Obama administration.
When Wilkie ventured into talking about how Trump has improved veteran affairs, Bash interjected, “I really want to stay on topic because this is dominating the news, in a large part because the president is trying so be so aggressive in pushing back, the issue is that this is consistent with a pattern of public statements by the president.”
The station then played a clip of Trump in 2015 when he was a presidential candidate, saying, “I never liked [McCain] that much after that because I dont like losers.”
“Hes a war hero,” Trump was told.
“Hes a war hero because he was captured, I like people who werent captured, okay, I hate to tell you,” Trump said at the time.
The outlet then cut back to the CNN host who said, “listening to that, the way he disparaged not just John McCain but all prisoners of war, do you understand why people might find the details of these stories were hearing now believable?”
President Donald Trump recently denied the anonymously-sourced allegations published by The Atlantic that he wouldnt support the funeral of the late Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.).
Wilkie told Bash, “I understand that in the passion of a campaign with two powerful personnel … I was a friend with John McCain … I understand politics, I understand name calling when it comes from both sides. All I can say is the proof in the pudding for us is what has happened to veterans in the last three years.
“I judge a man by his actions and the actions have been beneficial for veterans all across this country in ways that weve not seen since the end of World War II.
“And I would also say the same for the U.S. military. I was the undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness. I watched the president sign letters of condolences to those whove fallen in Afghanistan and Iraq, I was on the frontlines then.
“So Im judging the president by what hes done as president,” he said, adding that he “absolutely” thinks McCain was a war hero.
Bash then asked Wilkie about Trumps repeated comments claiming credit for passing the Veterans Choice Act. The Veterans Choice Act first passed in 2014 by President Barack Obama and expanded in 2018 by Trump with the