President Trump touted his plans today to bolster the U.S. military in front of shipbuilders and sailors on the deck of the USS Gerald R. Ford in Newport News, Virginia — a brand new carrier that is expected to be commissioned this summer.
"This is American craftsmanship at its biggest, at its best, at its finest," Trump told the gathered service members. "Hopefully it's power we don't have to use. But if we do, they're in big, big trouble."
"We will give our military the tools you need to prevent war and, if required, to fight war and only do one thing: win," he continued.
Trump's visit came the day after revelations that Jeff Sessions, now the attorney general, met with the Russian ambassador to the U.S. during the 2016 presidential campaign, despite telling Congress that he did not have any communication with Russian officials. The news prompted Democrats to call for his resignation and some Republicans to say he should recuse himself from any Department of Justice inquiries into contacts between the Trump campaign and Russian officials. Trump said he has "total" confidence in Sessions, adding that "I think he probably did" tell the truth to Congress.
A representative for Sessions said that he was acting in his capacity as a senator on the Armed Services Committee and that "there was absolutely nothing misleading about his answer." A White House official slammed the controversy as a partisan attack from Democrats.
Trump has proposed an increase in the Defense Department's budget by $54 billion — up 10 percent from last year. The $12.9 billion Gerald Ford is the Navy's most expensive warship, belonging to the next generation of aircraft carriers, which are replacing the Nimitz-class carriers first commissioned in 1975.
"The Gerald R. Ford class will be the premier forward asset for crisis response and early decisive striking power in a major combat operation," the Navy's website says. "Gerald R. Ford–class aircraft carriers and carrier strike groups will provide the core capabilities of forward presence, deterrence, sea control, power projection, maritime security and humanitarian assistance. The class brings improved war-fighting capability, quality of life improvements for our sailors and reduced total ownership costs."
A Navy official told ABC News that the Ford will have more electrical power generation, replacing the steam catapult system currently in use. Approximately 4,500 sailors will make up its crew.
The ship is expected to go through sea trials in the coming weeks and be commissioned this summer, the official said.