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Former White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders told “The View” co-host on Tuesday that President Donald Trump never disparaged American war dead interned in a French cemetery, while also acknowledging that the president and her late father, Sen. John McCain, never did see eye-to-eye.
Sanders, who made an appearance to promote a new memoir about her time in the Trump White House, pushed back on claims made by anonymous sources quoted in an Atlantic story by Jeffrey Goldberg last week that Trump called U.S. troops and Marines killed during World War I and buried at the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery “suckers” and “losers.”
McCain kicked off the interview by expressing her belief that the quotes are real based on things the president has said in the past — about her father and about retired Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, a veteran who claimed that Trump acted inappropriately on a phone call with the Ukrainian president, which led to his impeachment.
“My first instinct was to question the reporting. And then you actually went on record saying he has ‘the greatest amount of respect for the men and women of our armed forces,’” McCain said. “The problem, as I said, the president has a pattern of saying incendiary things about my father, about people like the Khan family, people like Col. Vindman.
“And if this charge had been leveled anonymously against any other politician, I think people would second-guess it,” McCain continued. “But because it’s about someone with this record of insulting veterans, people tend to believe it, which is why I think it has legs. I want your perspective on it and I want to know if you understand my and other people’s perspectives on it. And look, it may not matter. He got a big chunk of the veteran vote, he could very well do it again, but I think character and principle still matter.”
“Absolutely, and after spending nearly every single day for nearly two-and-a-half years next to the president, I can tell you I witnessed first hand the president’s respect and admiration for the men and women of our armed forces,” Sanders responded.
Noting that she “traveled all over the world” with Trump, Sanders added that she also was “in the room with him” when the president had to inform loved ones of military members killed on the battlefield.
“That takes a toll on a person,” Sanders continued. “I also saw him overseas make us take a second stop” in order to allow him to visit U.S. forces.
She then flatly debunked The Atlantic’s claims, which came from alleged anonymous sources.
“I was one of the few people that were in the room, I’m not an anonymous source. I’m going on the record and I’m telling you it didn’t happen,” Sanders continued. “That’s not who this president is, and that’s not how he feels about the men and women who serve in our military.”
Later, when pressed by McCain about the bad blood between her father and Trump, Sanders said, “There’s no denying the fact that not only did Donald Trump dislike your father, your father disliked the president.
“I’m not saying that there weren’t some moments that were heated, that were not of the highest level of respect, but when it comes to who this president is, at his heart, and how he feels about the men and women of our armed services, I can say for my own experience he has a great level of respect,” she added.
Sen. McCain early on distanced himself from Trump and the tens of millions of people who wound up supporting him early on, saying in July 2015 the soon-to-be-president “fired up the crazies.”
After the president appeared to disparage McCain’s war service, the late Arizona senator refused to attend the Republican National Convention in 2016 where Trump accepted the party’s nomination.
McCain also briefed then-FBI Director James Comey on the widely debunked ‘Steele dossier,’ which served as the basis for the phony ‘Russian collusion’ investigation.