John Kelly, who served as former President Donald Trump’s chief of staff, unleashed a blistering attack against his former boss on Monday, confirming on the record that many of Trump’s critical remarks about veterans and injured service members were true.
“What can I add that has not already been said?” Kelly told CNN in an exclusive statement. “A person that thinks those who defend their country in uniform, or are shot down or seriously wounded in combat, or spend years being tortured as POWs are all ‘suckers’ because ‘there is nothing in it for them.’ A person that did not want to be seen in the presence of military amputees because ‘It doesn’t look good for me.’
“A person who demonstrated open contempt for a Gold Star family ― for all Gold Star families ― on TV during the 2016 campaign and rants that our most precious heroes who gave their lives in America’s defense are ‘losers’ and wouldn’t visit their graves in France.”
Kelly — a retired U.S. Marine Corps general and former secretary of the Department of Homeland Security — was Trump’s longest-serving chief of staff. His comments confirm a multitude of reports about Trump’s statements on service members, veterans and prisoners of war, both in and out of the White House. The former president drew fierce criticism when he expressed his dislike for the late Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), a prisoner of war in Vietnam, saying he liked “people that weren’t captured.”
The statement also bolsters comments in a profile in The Atlantic last month from Gen. Mark Milley, who served as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The piece included an anecdote in which Trump allegedly asked about a wounded Army captain who was singing “God Bless America” at an event.
“Why do you bring people like that here?” Trump reportedly said. “No one wants to see that, the wounded.”
Kelly went on in his comments to CNN:
“A person who is not truthful regarding his position on the protection of unborn life, on women, on minorities, on evangelical Christians, on Jews, on working men and women. A person that has no idea what America stands for and has no idea what America is all about.
“A person who cavalierly suggests that a selfless warrior who has served his country for 40 years in peacetime and war should lose his life for treason – in expectation that someone will take action. A person who admires autocrats and murderous dictators. A person that has nothing but contempt for our democratic institutions, our Constitution, and the rule of law.”
“There is nothing more that can be said,” he concluded. “God help us.”
Trump’s campaign rejected Kelly’s comments in a statement to Axios, saying the general had “totally clowned himself with these debunked stories he’s made up because he didn’t serve his President well while working as Chief of Staff.”