Politics In Bracing Terms, Trump Invokes War’s Human Toll to Defend His Policies
Live updates: Trump says he would cooperate if Democrats ‘give us our rights’; Biden makes most direct demand for impeachment
A day after the White House announced that it would not cooperate with the inquiry into the Ukraine scandal, Democrats vowed to work to hold the president accountable.“President Trump has indicted himself by obstructing justice, refusing to comply with a congressional inquiry … he’s already convicted himself,” Biden said during a fiery address in New Hampshire.
WASHINGTON — It is the most solemn of rituals for American presidents: comforting the soldiers wounded under his command or the families of those who have died. For generations, presidents have typically discussed those encounters in the most delicate of tones.
“The hardest thing I have to do, by far, much harder than the witch hunt, is signing letters to parents of soldiers that have been killed,” President Trump said at the White House this month.
Trump Lashes Out on Syria as Republicans Rebuke Him in House Vote
President Trump faced off against both parties in Congress on Wednesday in an extraordinary confrontation over his decision to abandon America’s Kurdish allies as the vast majority of House Republicans joined Democrats to condemn his policy in an overwhelming vote. Sign Up For the Morning Briefing NewsletterMr. Trump found himself increasingly isolated after withdrawing troops from Syria and clearing the way for a Turkish offensive against Kurds who had fought alongside the United States.
But in arguing that there must be an end to “endless wars” in Afghanistan and more recently in Syria, Mr. Trump has given graphic accounts of distraught widows and disfigured soldiers in terms rarely, if ever, heard from a president before. In one recent instance, he said he had seen grieving family members “make sounds, scream and cry like you’ve never seen before.”
Mr. Trump has particularly focused on describing the ceremony of transferring the flag-draped coffins of American soldiers killed overseas from the military cargo planes that have brought their remains home to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware.
In his telling, it is a gut-wrenching ordeal, a scene of anguish from the families of the fallen that bolsters his determination to bring American soldiers home from overseas conflicts. The public shares that desire,which found that 46 percent of Americans believe that military intervention makes the country less safe, while just 27 percent believe the opposite.
Analysis: The impeachment inquiry is making Nancy Pelosi more popular.
Speakers usually lose popularity over time. Pelosi's bucking the trend.That’s not too surprising. Trump’s approval rating has been remarkably stable over his presidency’s 18 months. Moreover, it’s hard for the scandal to affect Trump supporters’ approval when most of his base either doesn’t think that the president asked Ukraine to investigate Joe and Hunter Biden or thinks that doing so was appropriate.
All recent presidents have struggled with the cost of war, and how to speak publicly about it, and to many of his supporters, Mr. Trump is talking in authentic and admirably frank terms about a reality many Americans and Washington policymakers never confront.
But Mr. Trump’s comments also offend some veterans and military experts. They say that solemn words about fallen heroes ring hollow from a president who received a Vietnam draft deferment and who has managed.
Others wince at the bluntness of Mr. Trump’s accounts.
“I think it’s disrespectful,” said Andrew J. Bacevich, a retired Army colonel turned author and historian whose son. “Those are infinitely private and painful moments. And to have anyone presume to comment on that, I think is beyond reprehensible.”
“He’s politicizing casualties,” he said.
Impeachment inquiry shows Trump at the center of Ukraine efforts against rivals
A growing body of evidence makes clear it was Trump himself who repeatedly pushed his own government and a foreign power to intervene in domestic political concerns.Over two weeks of closed-door testimony, a clear portrait has emerged of a president personally orchestrating the effort to pressure a foreign government to dig up dirt on a potential 2020 political rival — and marshaling the full resources of the federal bureaucracy to help in that endeavor.
Mr. Trump has paid two visits to Dover Air Force Base, according to a White House spokesman, but it is unclear whether he has actually witnessed such scenes himself, or is repeating accounts he has heard from the military officers he has encountered there.
At, the president referred to a widow jumping “on top of the flowers,” adding “I’ve seen this.” But the coffins unloaded at Dover, known as transfer cases, are not adorned with flowers.
Visiting Dover is a “a very tough experience,” he said at the rally, describing grieving families awaiting the return of their deceased sons or daughters with remarkable poise.
On his first visit, the president said, he told an unnamed colonel that the relatives he had met appeared to be “doing great.” The colonel warned that would change: “No sir, they’re not going to do great. You’ll see.”
Then, Mr. Trump said, “this big incredible machine flies in, this tremendous cargo plane,” a door opens and lowers a ramp, down which several soldiers carry a flag-draped coffin.
“And I see parents make sounds, that were just 20 minutes ago absolutely fine, make sounds, scream and cry like you’ve never seen before,” he said.
Analysis: Democrats Want to Impeach Trump. They Haven’t Decided Why.
The articles of impeachment could be focused solely on Ukraine — or they could be a broader indictment of the president's wrongdoing.But while that decision helped quell years of frantic debate over whether and why and how Democrats might seek to remove the president, it also foreshadowed the coming battle among House Democrats about what the actual articles of impeachment should look like. Democrats seem to have made strides in their investigation in recent weeks, but they still have this major hurdle to resolve — a hurdle that could have significant implications not just for the success of the inquiry, but for Democrats’ ability to keep control of the House in 2020.
“Sometimes they’ll run to the coffin. They’ll break through military barriers,” he said on another occasion, and “run to the coffin and jump on top of the coffin. Crying mothers and wives. Crying desperately.”
Dan Caldwell, a senior adviser to Concerned Veterans for America, a conservative group that supports a noninterventionist American foreign policy, called Mr. Trump’s remarks “some of the most powerful and most eloquent remarks of his presidency.”
“I thought it was very important that he take some time to remind the American people of the human toll of these endless wars,” said Mr. Caldwell, a former Marine who served a tour of duty in Iraq. “Policymakers, especially here in Washington, D.C., need to understand that these wars have a real cost,” he added.
Mr. Trump has also spoken increasingly often about his somber encounters with the wounded at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center outside Washington, which the White House spokesman said he had visited eight times.
He recently recalled meeting a soldier whose nose had been reconstructed from “a thousand fragments,” and recounted his awkward conversation.
“I said, ‘So where were you hurt?’” Mr. Trump asked the soldier, whom he did not name. “He said, ‘My face, sir, was almost obliterated.’”
“I said, ‘You have a better face than I do,’” Mr. Trump disclosed to nervous laughter in the room, before praising the skill of the man’s surgeons.
6 highlights from Ukraine envoy Bill Taylor's 'explosive' testimony
Taylor's testimony raised serious concerns about Trump's denials of a quid pro quo.In his remarkable 15-page statement before delivered to Congress on Tuesday, Trump's top diplomat to the Ukraine painted a picture of both.
Scott Corsaut, a Marine veteran and interim president of America’s Gold Star Families, a support group for the families of people killed during active duty, said he sympathized with the emotional nature of Mr. Trump’s interactions.
“It’s got to be tough as a president, whether it’s President Trump or President Obama, to greet the families. I just really feel that as a human being that’s got to be a tough job,” he said.
Others see little introspection on Mr. Trump’s part.
“Having a draft dodger come and lecture us about what service to the country means or hard it is to lose troops in combat is hypocrisy at its worst,” said Representative Seth Moulton of Massachusetts, a former Marine who served four tours in Iraq. “It’s disgusting. Fake piety is worse than none at all,” added Mr. Moulton, who was briefly a Democratic candidate for president. “He’s saying what he believes is politically popular.”
Peter D. Feaver, a scholar of civil-military relations at Duke University who served on the National Security Council under President George W. Bush, said that Mr. Trump may be haunted by his exemption from Vietnam service after a diagnosis of bone spurs thatwas unfounded.
“Some presidents struggle with whether they have the moral authority to cause other people to risk their lives,” Mr. Feaver said.
Mr. Trump’s past two predecessors, Mr. Bush and Barack Obama, each regularly visited Walter Reed to meet with service members wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan. Mr. Bush was a pilot in the Air National Guard during the Vietnam War, but Mr. Obama, like his successor, did not serve in the military.
Pentagon official handling Ukraine and Russia appears in impeachment inquiry
A senior Pentagon official who oversees U.S. defense policy on Ukraine and Russia arrived for the latest testimony in the Democratic-led U.S. House inquiry.WASHINGTON — A senior Pentagon official who oversees U.S. defense policy on Ukraine and Russia arrived on Wednesday for the latest testimony in the Democratic-led U.S. House of Representatives inquiry against Republican President Donald Trump.
But Mr. Bush never visited Dover, despite the thousands of troops killed under his watch, although he met privately with the families of hundreds of lost soldiers in other locations. His White House, determined to maintain support for the Iraq war, resisted pressure to allow cameras to film the return of bodies there.
In late 2009, as he weighed whether to send more troops into Afghanistan, Mr. Obamato Dover to greet a plane returning several Americans who had been killed there. The White House allowed a photographer to capture the scene, prompting conservatives to accuse Mr. Obama of exploiting a sacred ritual.
Mr. Trump has also allowed cameras to photograph him at Dover, but families must also agree to any coverage by the news media.
“The burden that both our troops and our families bear in any wartime situation is going to bear on how I see these conflicts,” Mr. Obama said the next day. “It is something that I think about each and every day.
When Mr. Trumpdefending in December, he suggested that such a disentanglement from a foreign war would comfort those who had died fighting in them.
“I’ll tell you, they’re up there looking down on us,” Mr. Trump said, adding that “there is nobody happier” about his withdrawal plan. “That’s the way they want it,” he continued, pointing his finger toward the sky.
Mr. Bacevich shares Mr. Trump’s skepticism of foreign military action, but he said the president is a flawed and ineffective antiwar messenger, noting that he has overseen Pentagon budget increases and appointed hawkish aides like John R. Bolton, who.
Mr. Trump “doesn’t know how to end endless wars,” he said. “He doesn’t know how to deal with the situations he’s inherited. You can’t just say, ‘Well, we quit.’”
Republican protest delays impeachment testimony from Pentagon’s Ukraine expert .
Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Laura Cooper was expected to answer questions about the mechanics of U.S. security assistance for Ukraine.Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Laura Cooper was due to speak at 10 a.m. in a closed-door session about the mechanics of U.S. security assistance for Ukraine and the fallout from the White House’s decision to withhold it for several months over the summer. But her session was disrupted as it was about to begin, with members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus refusing to leave the area where impeachment witnesses have met with lawmakers.
Donald Trump full press conference at the Rose Garden | January 4, 2019
President Trump, top Democrats and top Republicans appear no closer to building bridges as Mr. Trump continues to demand funding for his border wall.
Watch live: Michael Cohen testifies at House Oversight Committee hearing
Michael Cohen, President Trump's former lawyer, is expected to offer insight into President Trump as a person and businessman when he publicly testifies ...