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Here's the problem for Donald Trump with the Atlantic story

Editor-in-chief of The Atlantic magazine Jeffrey Goldberg discusses his report in which multiple first-hand anonymous sources said President Trump denigrated US service members. President Trump has denied the report and CNN has not independently verified the reporting.

Posted: Sep 5, 2020 3:30 PM
Updated: Sep 5, 2020 3:30 PM

On Thursday night The Atlantic published a bombshell story that alleged -- citing four anonymous sources -- that President Donald Trump had repeatedly mocked US soldiers killed in battle and skipped a visit to a veterans' cemetery in France out of concern that rainy conditions would mess up his carefully coiffed hair.

The report immediately became a massive story, with Democrats -- including Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden -- rushing to condemn Trump for his alleged behavior and the White House rallying an aggressive pushback against the article, including the President himself.

"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."

On Friday morning, Trump took his defense to Twitter. "The Atlantic Magazine is dying, like most magazines, so they make up a fake story in order to gain some relevance," he wrote. "Story already refuted, but this is what we are up against. Just like the Fake Dossier. You fight and and fight, and then people realize it was a total fraud!"

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.

Now, I am not in a position to litigate who is right here. And CNN has not independently verified The Atlantic's reporting. But Trump's insistence that he would never say anything disparaging about a military veteran or the military more generally is belied by, well, facts.

In 2015, shortly after he had officially entered the 2016 Republican presidential race, Trump said this of the late Arizona Sen. John McCain: "He's not a war hero. He's a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren't captured." McCain was shot down and kept captive by the North Vietnamese for more than five years. The wounds he suffered as a result of the torture he endured during his captivity left him unable to raise his arms over his head -- among other maladies -- for the rest of his life.

In the wake of Gold Star father Khizr Khan's speech at the Democratic National Convention in 2016 -- in which Khan suggested Trump had never sacrificed anything in life -- the billionaire businessman suggested that Hillary Clinton's speechwriters had actually written the speech and that Khan's wife, who stood silently by her husband, was not allowed to speak. As for Khan's claim that Trump had never sacrificed, the Republican nominee responded this way: "I think I've made a lot of sacrifices. I work very, very hard. I've created thousands and thousands of jobs, tens of thousands of jobs, built great structures."

Following the death of US Army Sgt. La David Johnson in Niger in 2017, the slain soldier's wife (and a Florida Democratic congresswoman) said that Trump had told her on a phone call that her husband "knew what he had signed up for." Trump denied the claim.

Last fall, Trump referred to his former Secretary of Defense James Mattis, a highly decorated Marine, as "the world's most overrated general."

While campaigning in Iowa in November 2015, Trump said, "I know more about ISIS than the generals do."

There's more -- much more -- but you get the idea. Trump has in the past been willing to critique military veterans as well as prisoners of war.

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.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

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Cases: 614946

Reported Deaths: 9807
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion849231342
Lake45784693
Allen33103560
Hamilton29752316
St. Joseph27572383
Elkhart24496346
Vanderburgh19679255
Tippecanoe18150144
Johnson15234296
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Hendricks14550253
Madison11071223
Clark10852145
Vigo10819185
Monroe9496115
Delaware9193136
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Howard8325148
Kosciusko811485
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Hancock6783106
Bartholomew6659100
Floyd6522113
Wayne6194164
Grant6050118
Dubois559081
Boone557968
Morgan551996
Henry512365
Marshall507884
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Cass487864
Noble476159
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Starke177044
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Owen168338
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Carroll160616
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Perry156129
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Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 872918

Reported Deaths: 10856
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin102616707
Cuyahoga868931154
Hamilton65148455
Montgomery43662420
Summit35411766
Lucas31794634
Butler31451232
Stark26247445
Warren19939144
Lorain19378229
Mahoning17561339
Lake16350161
Clermont16235113
Delaware1463881
Licking13453142
Fairfield1301782
Trumbull12980317
Greene12226144
Medina11798169
Clark11094266
Wood10507158
Allen10031128
Portage9514111
Richland9275134
Miami927273
Marion7512113
Tuscarawas7455186
Columbiana7433124
Pickaway735250
Muskingum714042
Wayne7140172
Erie6253130
Ross5589100
Hancock556292
Scioto545365
Geauga518955
Darke474395
Lawrence464658
Union459130
Ashtabula457973
Sandusky440462
Huron435541
Mercer435590
Seneca435366
Auglaize425166
Belmont423948
Jefferson423969
Shelby422923
Washington396340
Athens38619
Putnam379276
Madison359930
Knox358423
Ashland349638
Fulton341744
Defiance336188
Crawford327274
Preble323637
Brown318821
Logan314835
Ottawa297443
Clinton293944
Highland282219
Williams282267
Jackson266145
Guernsey259326
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Fayette241030
Morrow23594
Perry235518
Holmes227274
Henry222954
Hardin217033
Coshocton208023
Van Wert204445
Gallia200126
Wyandot198151
Pike180918
Adams179815
Hocking174024
Carroll158216
Paulding145521
Noble121040
Meigs110324
Monroe103433
Harrison89821
Morgan84531
Vinton71714
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