“To think that I would make statements negative to our military when nobody has done what I’ve done, with the budgets and the military budget,” Trump said Thursday night after returning from a campaign rally in Pennsylvania. “We’re getting pay raises for the military. It is a disgraceful situation, by a magazine that is a terrible magazine, I don’t read it.”
National security adviser Robert O’Brien was called in to serve as a character witness for Trump, telling reporters, “You’re not going to find anybody who’s more sympathetic to their situation than the President.” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told Fox News he never heard the President use the language described in the article.
Jeffrey Goldberg, who authored The Atlantic piece, stood by his reporting in an appearance on CNN’s “New Day” Friday morning.
“I stand by my reporting,” he said. “I have multiple sources telling me this is what happened, and so I stand by it.”
So, we’re left with this dilemma: Goldberg insists the story is true. Trump insists the story is false. Both of those views can’t be right.
Trump’s insistence that he would never say anything disparaging about a military veteran or the military more generally is belied by, well, facts.
Now, that is not proof — at all! — that he said and did what The Atlantic piece alleges. But the context here is not favorable for Trump.
Had this report come out about, say George W. Bush or Barack Obama, and they had denied it forcefully — as Trump has — it would be a near-certainty that most people (and the media) would accept that the story was just flat wrong. Because there was no indication in any of their past behavior that would indicate they might ever utter such sentiments about the military.
That’s simply not the case with Trump. And that fact complicates his defense of himself against The Atlantic in a major way.
This story has been updated Saturday to reflect that CNN and other news outlets have partially corroborated The Atlantic’s reporting.