White House chief of staff Mark Meadows on Tuesday defended President Trump’s remarks that top leaders at the Pentagon want to keep waging wars in order to keep defense contractors “happy.”
During a press conference at the White House on Monday, Trump continued his denials that he made disparaging comments about fallen soldiers in 2018 when he canceled his visit to a cemetery in France honoring service members who died in the Battle of Belleau Wood. The President dismissed allegations that he called the slain soldiers “losers” and “suckers” — which were first reported in The Atlantic — as a “hoax.”
After telling reporters on Monday that he’s “not saying the military’s in love with me — the soldiers are,” the President went on to suggest that Pentagon leaders don’t feel the same towards him because they are beholden to defense contractors.
“The top people in the Pentagon probably aren’t because they want to do nothing but fight wars so all of those wonderful companies that make the bombs and make the planes and make everything else stay happy,” Trump said on Monday.
When asked whether he’s seen evidence supporting Trump’s assertion regarding Pentagon leaders, Meadows denied that the President’s remarks were directed toward an individual general, and that he had spoken to Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, on Monday.
“Those comments are not directed specifically at them as much as we all know what happens in Washington, D.C.,” Meadows said. “This president is consistent about one thing: if we’re going to send our sons and daughters abroad to fight on our behalf, he’s not going to let some lobbyist here in Washington D.C. — just because they want a new defense contract — suggest that they need to stay abroad one minute longer than they should.”
Meadows claimed that Trump has been consistent about stopping the endless wars, before reiterating that the President will “continue fighting against the special interest groups here in Washington D.C.”
“So that comment was more directed about the military industrial complex,” Meadows said.
Meadows’ remarks come as Trump faces backlash over The Atlantic report about his denigrating remarks toward fallen soldiers. According to The Atlantic, Trump’s comments included calling the late Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) — who was captured by the Vietnamese, tortured and imprisoned for more than five years — a “fucking loser” in 2018.
Trump administration officials began coming to the President’s defense over the weekend, including Esper — who Trump appointed in 2017 after he served as the chief Washington lobbyist for the defense contracting company Raytheon. Esper has occasionally fallen out of Trump’s good graces — specifically when he subtly broke with Trump over the St. John’s Episcopal Church photo-op — and the White House has reportedly interviewed candidates to replace him.
Watch Meadows’ remarks below: