Former White House national security adviser John Bolton stated in his memoir that President Trump canceled a visit to Aisne-Marne American Cemetery near Paris over weather, undercutting a key claim in a recent story from The Atlantic that the president scrapped the trip because of the “losers” and “suckers” buried there.
Aisne-Marne holds the graves of nearly 2,300 American soldiers, including hundreds of U.S. Marines that died in the Battle of Belleau Wood in June 1918 during World War I. Trump made plans to visit the war memorial in 2018, marking a century since Belleau Wood, but canceled the visit last-minute over rain and unsafe flying conditions.
The Atlantic reported a different version of events on Thursday. The magazine’s editor-in-chief Jeffrey Goldberg said that Trump scrapped the trip because he thought the rain would mess up his hair. Goldberg also reported a significantly more explosive claim that Trump referred to the American soldiers buried at the site as “losers” and “suckers.”
Goldberg, citing four anonymous officials, reported:
When President Donald Trump canceled a visit to the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery near Paris in 2018, he blamed rain for the last-minute decision, saying that “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, according to four people with firsthand knowledge of the discussion that day. In a conversation with senior staff members on the morning of the scheduled visit, Trump said, “Why should I go to that cemetery? It’s filled with losers.” In a separate conversation on the same trip, Trump referred to the more than 1,800 marines who lost their lives at Belleau Wood as “suckers” for getting killed.
Goldberg makes no mention of the contradicting, on-the-record claim made by Bolton, a prominent Trump critic, months ago in his memoir “The Room Where It Happened.” On the canceled trip to Aisne-Marne, Bolton writes:
On Saturday, I went to the U.S. Ambassador’s residence, where Trump was staying, to brief him for his bilateral with [French President Emmanuel Macron]. The weather was bad and [former Chief of Staff John Kelly] and I spoke about whether to travel as planned to the Chateau-Thierry Belleau Woods monuments and nearby American Cemeteries, where many U.S. World War I were buried. Marine One’s crew were 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 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 but very hard for a Marine like Kelly to recommend, having originally been the one to suggest Belleau Wood (an iconic battle in Marine Corps history). Trump agreed, and it was decided that others would drive to the cemetery instead.
The press turned canceling the military 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 President of the United States, but the press didn’t understand that rules for US presidents are different from the rules for 190 other leaders who don’t command the world’s greatest military forces.